Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Pelota Twitterati: updated!

I did a post last August in which I listed all the professional pelotaris and associated personalities who use Twitter. Since then, several more have joined the fray and with Twitter ever more important as a medium for spreading news and results, I thought it high time for an update!


Fernando Goñi (@fgoni; you can also follow the feed for his hotel, @QuintoReal)

Pablo Berasaluze (@pberasaluze8)

David Merino (@davidmerino21)

Gorka Esteban (@gorka_ezka)

Cecilio Valgañon (@cevalgan)

Alexis Apraiz (@Apraiz2)

Aitor Zubieta (@AitorZubieta; this is a secure account to which you have to send a follow request)

Ladis Galartza (@galartza)

Ibai Zabala (@ibaizabala1)

Alvaro Untoria (@alvarountoria)

Peio Martinez de Eulate (@pmeulate)

Miguel Merino (@miguel_vdt)

Julen Retegi (@retegibi)

Inaki Iza (@izarazua)

Jon Jaunarena (@jonjaunarena)

Joseba Ezkurdia (@josebaezkurdia)

Victor Esteban (amateur, @victor_ezka)

Arkaitz Peñas (amateur, @alcaldearkaitz)


Asergarce (@asegarcepelota)

ASPE (@ASPEpelota)

Pelota media and miscellaneous others

Carlos Zuluaga (@czuluaga;

Jorge Elipe (@jorgelipe)

Xabier Euzkitze (@xabiereuzkitze)

Mondo Pilota (@mondopilota)

Bizkaia Fronton (@bizkaiafrontoia)

Arritxu Iribar (@arritxuiribar)

And follow me for updates from this blog (@AlbertinaPdC)

Ibai Zabala and Inaki Iza, tweeters both

Ibai Zabala and Inaki Iza, tweeters both

Photo: mine

Mikel Beroiz out of Manomanista

Mikel Beroiz’s misfortune continues. After an injury to his right hand put paid to the chances of he and Aimar Olaizola making the Pairs final, the young Asegarce star has now been forced out of the Manomanista Championship. He was due to take on Abel Barriola in the first round on 6th May but will be replaced by Aritz Begino. Begino therefore gets a reprieve after losing his qualifying match to Iker Arretxe.

2012 Manomanista Championship presented

The 2012 Manomanista Championship was presented earlier this week at the headquarters of La Caixa in Bilbao. The pelotaris representing each empresa are as follows:

For Asegarce: Olaizola II, Bengoetxea VI, Olaizola I, Urrutikoetxea, Beroiz, Albisu and Olaetxea

For Aspe: Xala, Idoate, Mtz. de Irujo, Retegi BI, González, Merino II and Barriola

The first round will begin on 6th May, with the final on 17th June. Each empresa will also hold play offs for the chance to enter the draw and these began this weekend. On the Asegarce side, Arretxe II won a place by beating Begino 22-8 today. For Aspe, Aritz Lasa came from behind last night to beat Ezkurdia 22-17. He will now face Zubieta for a place in the main draw. The groups look like this:

Group A: Barriola v Beroiz, winner plays Irujo, winner plays Xala

Group B: Arretxe II v Zubieta or Aritz Lasa, winner plays Olaizola I, winner plays Idoate

Group C: Gonzalez v Urrutikoetxea, winner plays Merino II, winner plays Bengoetxea VI

Group D: Olaetxea v Albisu, winner plays Retegi Bi, winner plays Olaizola II

For the full timetable see here

Shock in Bilbao as Xala and Laskurain make a final without big favourites

Friday 13th April, Bilbao


Friday 13th, unlucky for some, and certainly unlucky for Aimar Olaizola and Mikel Beroiz. Save for one narrow loss to Titin III and Merino II the previous week, Asegarce’s flagship pairing had blazed an unbeaten trail through the 2012 Pairs Championship, winning fifteen matches in a row. They had to win here to secure their place in the final, a place which had seemed a certainty for weeks on end. They had one foot over the line, and most of the second as they found themselves in a 16-7 lead here. However, an injury to the right hand of Beroiz, exacerbated at 10-5 when he left the field of play for treatment, proved their spectacular undoing. This state of affairs is to take nothing away from Xala and Laskurain, who knew exactly what they had to do to exploit the defensive hole left by their opponents and followed a ruthless plan to absolute perfection. They only just scraped into the semi finals at the expense of pre-tournament favourites Irujo and Barriola, and now find themselves in the final. As Beroiz missed to hand them their 22-18 win they could scarcely believe what had happened to them.

The first half of the match was all Aimar and Beroiz. Beroiz was not as solid as of late and clearly not on top form, but thanks to the continuing winning swagger of Aimar, his contribution seemed more than enough. Xala made two hapless errors in a row to hand the favourites a 3-8 advantage and it was very evident who was on top both in the mental stakes and in reality. Xala served his way back into some contention but Aimar was in no mood to mess around, playing Laskurain like a puppet on a string for a 10-5 lead clinched with a trademark gantxo. When Beroiz returned from his injury break, things were clearly not all well but Aimar, well aware of the situation, shouldered responsibility for keeping the ball away from his partner as much as he realistically could. He looked imperious in stretching their advantage to 13-5, using his serve as a platform for the domination of three points on the trot.

However, there was a limit to the amount of time that one player, however great, could take so much of the play on himself. Beroiz ceded the serve at 8-16 with a mishit and Xala and Laskurain seized the day. They repeatedly pummelled Beroiz, who had no hitting power and no answer. It was a simple but brutally effective tactic and worked to a tee. Aimar, presumably realising the need to grasp chances for winners when he had them in order to shorten each rally, missed a brace of winner chances and the pressure continued unabated. When Beroiz did not miscue or fall short, his returns were not deep enough and presented Xala with easy opportunities to put points away. The man from Lekuine also served with great accuracy; no trick was missed. As Aimar found in the Manomanista final last year summer, when Xala eyes the prize he rarely lets up and so it proved here. Injury to Beroiz or no, this was a staggering comeback. Beroiz ended with seven errors, though in reality many more points were lost as a direct result of his weakness. Aimar was on paper at least the better of the forwards but circumstance prevailed against him. Sport can be cruel.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-3, 3-3, 3-9, 5-9, 5-10, 5-13, 7-13, 7-16, 14-16, 14-17, 18-17, 18-18, 22-18.

Winners/errors: Xala 8/5, Olaizola 10/4, Laskurain 3/3, Beroiz 0/7.

On Sunday, the line-up for the Promocion Final was completed as OLAZABAL – LARRINAGA beat RICO IV – UNTORIA 22-17 in Pamplona. They will return to Labrit on Saturday 28th April to play JAUNARENA – CECILIO for the title. Jaunarena-Cecilio beat a spirited URRUTIKOETXEA – IBAI ZABALA 22-20 in the dead rubber in Eibar. The main Pairs Final takes place on Sunday 29th April at Bizkaia in Bilbao and I will be there to report from the scene!

Pelota on ETB: 20th-22nd April

Friday 20th April, Alsasu


Followed by ARITZ LASA v EZKURDIA Manomanista play off

Sunday 22nd April, Eibar



To watch, go to,

Titin and a brilliant Merino defeat the invincibles to surge into final

Sunday 8th April, Vitoria-Gasteiz


A belligerent Titin and a stunning David Merino did the unthinkable on Sunday and defeated Aimar Olaizola and Mikel Beroiz. Nobody else had managed this in the entire tournament, not in fourteen qualifying games or in their first semi-final. The high flying pair did not play badly at Ogueta, indeed an often imperious Aimar came out statistically better than Titin, but they failed to capitalise at key moments and Beroiz in particular was worn down by a scintillating effort from Merino who is scaling the heights of the sport. Their triumph means that the Riojans advance to the final with one match still to spare. Aimar and Beroiz must play off against Xala and Laskurain on Friday for the other place.

Although Titin and Merino took an early narrow lead, it was Aimar and Beroiz who looked to be the more assured as both pairs settled into the game. Up until 10-10 matters looked as close as close could be, although the patterns of the match as a whole were established. Beroiz, a rock throughout qualifying, began to show worrying signs of fragility on his way to several unnecessary errors, some of which appeared almost careless. In contrast, Merino appeared brimming with confidence. He absorbed some searing pressure, returning with jaw dropping ablomb and exerted plenty heat of his own. He was not faultless, but the errors he made tended to be induced rather than of his making.

Aimar was the catalyst as he and Beroiz eked out a lead, going ahead 15-11. He was helped by a handful of mistakes from Titin, the worst of which entailed a point needlessly squandered. However, a brace of uncharacteristic mistakes and another error from Beroiz allowed the Riojans back in. Aimar surged again, and this time one wondered whether the elastic might have snapped for Titin and Merino, but a key error by the great forward on 14-17 handed them the serve back. A 18-14 lead may have been a critical turning point but all of a sudden, one drop fell low and the momentum was lost, the moment had passed. The final phase of the match was utterly nerve ridden. All four made mistakes and all four showed immense skill in turn. The fact that the final two points were ceded to Titin and Merino by errors from Aimar reflects badly on the latter, and perhaps unfairly so. The Goizuetarra did everything he could and objectively played a good match. Unfortunately for him, his partner showed too many flashes of mortality just as Merino reached for the gods.

Titin and Merino’s celebrations were jubilant and utterly deserved. The underdogs have come good in the latter stages of this tournament, finding their form exactly when it matters. For a pair who were forced to struggle so hard to make the last four, reaching the final ahead of Aimar and Beroiz is quite some coup. For the defeated partnership, hitherto untouchable, this is uncharted water; they simply have to win in Bilbao on Friday otherwise their dream is dead in the water. Few would have predicted this scenario, but in the semi-finals, anything can happen.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 5-2, 5-5, 7-5, 7-8, 9-8, 9-10, 10-10, 10-11, 11-11, 11-15, 14-15, 14-17, 17-17, 17-18, 18-18, 18-19, 20-19, 20-20, 22-20

Winners/errors: Titin 9/5, Olaizola 9/4, Merino 3/3, Beroiz 3/6

Match time: 85:26 with 34:11 of actual play

Balls hit: 714

Promocion Pairs: Jaunarena and Cecilio the first finalists

Jon Jaunarena and Cecilio Valganon have become the first pair to qualify for the final of the Promocion Pairs Championship. They reached the last two with their second win of the semi finals, taking a resounding 22-8 win over Mikel Olazabal and Inaki Larrinaga in Ezcaray on Friday. This win represents a massive signal of intent for the Navarre-Riojas duo, who after an excellent qualifying campaign were pipped to table leadership by Olazabal and Larrinaga. Either pair would have qualified for the final with a win here, but the erstwhile top partnership was smacked down with aplomb. They must now wait and try again on Sunday, when they face Rico IV and Untoria in a play off for the second final berth.

Rico IV and Untoria kept their hopes alive with an even more resounding win, over Urrutikoetxea and Otxandorena (the latter Iza’s stand-in) in an Vicente de la Sonsierra on Saturday. Urrutikoetxea has been put at a disadvantage ever since injury to Iza disrupted their progress, and has had to deal with two changes in partner. He and Otxandorena were no match for the Riojans here, losing 22-5. Their championship is now over. They do however have a chance to salvage some pride in their final match, the dead rubber against Jaunarena and Cecilio in Eibar on Sunday.

Urrutikoetxea is out

Urrutikoetxea is out

Xala and Laskurain squeeze past brilliant Pablo to maintain their dreams

Saturday 7th April, Pamplona


It must seem to Pablo Berasaluze as if life simply isn’t fair. The effervescent Asegarce forward was outstanding at Labrit on Saturday, the best of the quartet of players by a healthy margin, but yet ended on the losing side. Any loss is hard to stomach, but especially one which kills any lingering dreams of a place in a big championship final. Berasaluze has been a joy to watch in the latter stages of this Pairs Championship, but it is Xala and Laskurain who maintain their hopes of a place in the last two, having undone Jon Ander Albisu entirely. There was nothing his forward partner could do to prevent his meltdown, as he committed error after error.

The Asegarce pair started the better, taking an early 5-0 lead, but their opponents came back at them to trail by only two points at 9-7 with a concerted effort to take Berasaluze out of the game and probe the weaknesses of his young defensive partner. The pressure told on Albisu, who was largely responsible for the dramatic turnaround as they ceded a 17-10 lead to Xala and Laskurain. Berasaluze, irrepressible as he is, still had his eyes on the prize however and seized the initiative back, dominating Xala who even when his pair was on top never looked entirely at ease with his game. Extraordinarily Berasaluze dragged his pair to a tie at 19-19. He ended the night with twelve winners, three times the total managed by Xala who lacked any kind of serious incision and was brought to his knees by Berasaluze’s left handed cross court play. Thankfully for Xala, he had the metronomically accurate support of Laskurain from behind, and his relentless hitting was sufficient to keep his younger counterpart firmly under the cosh. As Berasaluze’s miraculous comeback fell agonisingly short, the Aspe pair seized their chance.

Xala and Laskurain have blown hot and cold in the championship as a whole. Laskurain has been consistently excellent but Xala has been noticeably below par. They must be delighted at the position in which they now find themselves. On Friday they play a sudden death tie in Bilbao; the winner progresses to the final, the loser is out.

Labrit: setting for high drama

Labrit: setting for high drama

Pelota on ETB: 6th-9th April

Friday 6th April, Ezcaray

22:00 (CEST) OLAZABAL – LARRINAGA v JAUNARENA – CECILIO Promocion Pairs Semi Final


Sunday 8th April, Vitoria-Gasteiz


Followed by TITIN III – MERINO II v OLAIZOLA II – BEROIZ Pairs Semi Final

Monday 9th April, Zarautz



To watch, go to, or

Zarautz hosts two matches on Easter Monday

Zarautz hosts two matches on Easter Monday

Image: mine

Promocion Pairs Semi-Finals: first week goes to form

There were no shocks in the first week of the Promocion semi finals as the first and second pairs in qualifying both registered wins. In Beasain on Friday, OLAZABAL and LARRINAGA took a tight game 22-19 over URRUTIKOETXEA and IBAI ZABALA* (the latter standing in for Inaki Iza). JAUNARENA and CECILIO won in Logrono on Sunday, beating local pair RICO IV and UNTORIA 22-16. This victory was no walk in the park for the Navarre-Rioja duo but a win by six points means they have done enough to top the table going into week two. Last weekend’s two victorious pairs play each other in Ezcaray on Friday, while the losers take each other on in the Riojan town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra on Saturday.

Ibai Zabala and Urrutikoetxea (centre and right) fell just short

Ibai Zabala and Urrutikoetxea (centre and right) fell just short

Photo: mine