Friday 14th October, Urretxu
RETEGI BI beat ARITZ LASA 22-16
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.
Image from: Noticias de Navarra, by Ainara Garcia