Friday 7th October, Antzuola
ARITZ LASA beat URRUTIKOETXEA 22-5
The task of opening the 2011 Cuatro y Medio Championship fell to Aritz Lasa and Mikel Urrutikoetxea, in a match which on paper at least looked evenly matched and very hard to call. A straw poll of observers before the game seemed to come down on the side of Urrutikoetxea, who had pulled off an impressive run in 2010, but in the end it was Aritz Lasa who stormed through. Lasa has blown hot and cold of late, but proved that when he is on song he can be very classy indeed.
The first four points set the tone for the match and Urrutikoetxea never recovered. Lasa signalled his intent with an opening salvo crowned by a searing gantxo winner. This was followed by a service winner, the first of seven, another gantxo and a well worked point in which he tapped the ball gently to the corner before passing Urrutikoetxea powerfully on his right. The younger player inspired confidence of a comeback in his fans with a winner down the wall, but it was not to be as Lasa marched onwards with further force. Urrutikoetxea managed only once to string a pair of points together, at 2-7 and 3-7. His second winner came from a volley close to the frontis and his third from an excellent cross court volley from a diving lunge, but for his remaining points he had to rely on rare moments of carelessness from Lasa. Those aside, Lasa was utterly dominant. 21 of his points came from outright winners, a staggering statistic even in Cuatro y Medio, where winner counts can be on the higher side. Not only were his winners numerous, they were varied, showing off the whole range of the pelotari’s armoury, from volleys, drops and hooks to steepling balls over his opponent’s head.
Urrutikoetxea looked utterly hapless, without a hope tactically and without any potent weapons. This was a surprise given his proven talent and promise, but he has many years ahead to fulfil his potential. Lasa, for his part, proceeds to the quarter finals where he will face Retegi Bi. It remains to be seen whether he can pull off back to back matches of such excellence, but he will have the home advantage; the encounter will take place in his own town of Urretxu.
Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-1, 7-1, 7-3, 11-3, 11-4, 17-4, 17-5, 22-5.