Daily Archives: 19 October, 2011

Cuatro y Medio: the past week’s winners and losers

For a full report on RETEGI BI v ARITZ LASA, see here. In brief, the other games proceeded as follows:

Manomanista champion XALA beat SARALEGI 22-12 in Eibar on Sunday, but only exerted his grip on the game in the second half. Saralegi, the unquestionable underdog, fought tooth and nail to lead 11-10 at the mid point and gave his fans plenty to cheer about, taking the match to Xala and often dominating points with his wide court play. The champion knew he needed to up his game, and that he did, goaded on by his botillero and friend Aitor Zubieta. In the second half of the match, Saralegi looked a shadow of his former self, unable to pick up any scraps left by a now rampant Xala, who took the sting out of his opponent’s play by volleying and forcing the pace. The loser looked increasingly dejected, but deserves much credit for the way he approached the match; Saralegi always throws himself into championship ties and this was no exception. Xala plays Titin III in the latter’s home fortress of Logrono on Sunday, with a semi final berth at stake.

On Saturday in Pamplona, BENGOETXEA VI beat OLAETXEA 22-10. Bengoetxea was the clear favourite here, but he knew he needed to bring his A-game to ensure safe passage against an up and coming player who has ridden a crest of form throughout 2011. An early scoreline of 1-4 cannot have done much for his supporters’ nerves, but Bengoetxea emerged clearly the superior player, using a powerful and well directed serve to gain the early initiative in points time and again, and outdoing Olaetxea in every aspect of the game. He will need all the form he displayed here when he plays defending champion Martinez de Irujo on Sunday in Eibar.

OLAIZOLA II beat BERASALUZE VIII 22-14 in Bilbao on Saturday. On paper this was an easy win for the four time champion, but the scoreline belies the tempestuous tale of the match. Matters were extremely tight for much of the tie, with players trading hooks with ferocious intensity in front of a crowd of over a thousand. At 14-15, Berasaluze retired to the dressing room with a muscle strain in his left leg, but worse was to follow for the man from Berriz, when a contested call in the next play left him fuming and in angry debate with the judges. Olaizola, the serve his, ran away with the game while his opponent continued to show his disgust at his predicament. Berasaluze was perhaps unfortunate, but Olaizola’s physical superiority in the remainder of the match was obvious, and it is he who goes on to face 2009 champion Gonzalez in Pamplona on Friday. 

There were two matches in the Promocion Championship this past weekend. On Saturday in Pamplona, neo-pro TAINTA beat ARGOTE 22-15, an excellent win for the 19 year old against an opponent vastly more experienced. Argote is ten years his senior, and has twice been runner up in this championship, in 2007 and 2009. In Eibar on Sunday, APEZETXEA thrashed GORKA 22-5, in a game which should by rights have been closer. Tainta now plays Ongay (Pamplona, Saturday), and Apezetxea takes on Albisu (Logrono, Sunday).

The match between Berasaluze VIII and Olaizola II was a heated affair

The match between Berasaluze VIII and Olaizola II was a heated affair

Image from Diario de Navarra

Cuatro y Medio: Locals can’t lift Lasa as Retegi Bi progresses in Urretxu

Friday 14th October, Urretxu


Aritz Lasa was afforded the luxury of playing in his home town on Sunday, in front of his fans and friends. However, despite their best efforts to help him raise his game, he failed to progress to the third stage of the Cuatro y Medio championship. From his brief 4-3 lead onwards, he was always playing catch up to his Navarrese opponent and despite threatening a comeback in the latter stages of the game, always looked second best.

The early points were strongly contested. Despite losing the first two, Lasa fought gamely and turned his small deficit into a 4-2 lead, answering Retegi’s strong service with a sakez of his own and turning a desperate attempt to save a txoko into a cross court winner. Retegi, despite coming roaring out of the blocks, made errors, induced by Lasa’s tactic of pushing him as far back as possible to avoid close engagement at the frontis. However, Retegi then went into overdrive, winning ten points in a row to go from 2-4 down to 12-4 up. Four of these points were won with serves, which Lasa seemed incapable of reading. Retegi twice caught his opponent well out of position, driving easy winners home, and Lasa was not immune to digging his own grave, as he showed with the point on 4-4 where he completely missed the ball down the side wall with the point at his mercy. From 4-12 down, Lasa regained a modicum of composure, pulling affairs back to 7-12. A gantxo from the local boy made the crowd come alive and his serve also began to fire, but sadly for the Urretxu faithful, he wasted a golden opportunity to make progress with an aimless wide ball, ceding the momentum back to Retegi.

Lasa picked up points in ones and twos but his rival began to extend his lead, moving to 16-9 by pushing Lasa back and aiming into space with a classy overarm and a powerful drive. His confidence was clearly high and perhaps boiled over when ambition forced him wide at his next attempt. Lasa came back to within four points at 12-16, producing some textbook serves, but then once again wasted his opening, carelessly leaving a ball he thought was going long. When it did not, he held his head in his hands, along with the majority of his townsfolk, knowing full well the crucial nature of his error. He continued to keep Retegi on a tight rein, closing 14-17 with a stinging gantxo and 16-19 by means of a clever drop, but Retegi was always in control and had the power to change gear and close the match out. Feeling his rival’s breath on his neck, he won three straight points with two drops to the corner and an error from Lasa in a point where the loser put up a brave fight, just as he had all the match long. Lasa’s supporters rued his inability to rekindle the form he found to crush Urrutikoetxea the previous week, against a player full of confidence and calm. Retegi Bi will now meet Barriola for a place in the semi finals.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-4, 3-4, 4-4, 12-4, 12-7, 13-7, 13-9, 14-9, 16-9, 16-12, 17-12, 17-14, 18-14, 18-15, 19-15, 19-16, 22-16.

The victorious Julen Retegi

The victorious Julen Retegi

Image from: Noticias de Navarra, by Ainara Garcia