Monthly Archives: June 2012

Pelota on ETB, 29th June-1st July

The biggest event of the weekend is the Promocion Manomanista Final between JAUNARENA and EZKURDIA which takes place on Saturday in Pamplona. Unfortunately for us however, eitb does not hold the broadcast rights. We do, however, have matches from the Navarrese Cuatro y Medio championship from Sopalena on Friday night.

Friday 29th June, Sopalena



Sunday 1st July, Zarautz


Followed by a San Fermin Cuatro y Medio match TBC

To watch, go to,

Aimar Olaizola blows Martinez de Irujo away for third Manomanista crown

Sunday 24th June, Bilbao
Manomanista Final

This final, pelota’s showpiece event, promised a gargantuan tussle, a fight to the death between the players of their generation where no quarter would be given. In reality, we got a near walkover. Juan Martinez de Irujo’s implosion must however in no way devalue Aimar Olaizola’s devastating performance, for this result was the product of the Goizuetarra’s irresistible force. Olaizola was dominant in every conceivable way, both in this play and in his rock solid state of mind and Irujo had no answers. This sterling victory is the logical conclusion of a year in which Olaizola has been the best of the best. Throughout the Pairs Championship, he swatted all comers aside with disdain and was only prevented from attaining what many viewed as an inevitable txapela when partner Beroiz succumbed to injury in the semi-finals. He approached the Manomanista as favourite only to find his mere participation in grave doubt owing to an injury to his right arm. However, with the aid of match postponements, he set himself on course, overcoming a dogged Retegi Bi in the quarters and flattening Bengoetxea VI in the semis. Irujo had had to work harder for his place in the final, having very nearly been undone by Idoate in the last four, but he is a notoriously tough customer in finals. Not so for Aimar Olaizola who took 46 minutes and 49 seconds to dismantle him, body and soul.

The opening phase of the match, belying what was to come later on, was close and tense. Aimar hit the ground running with a gantxo winner, followed by a further three points based around a strong serve to go up 4-0 before Irujo had had the chance of a look in. He ceded the serve by going wide for 4-1 but Irujo could not capitalise, hitting the side wall high to restore Aimar’s four point advantage. Irujo took the next point with a cross court winner however and began to make inroads, closing to 5-5 with some dominating play before going ahead 7-5 thanks to a stunningly placed dos paredes. Irujo is well known for coming from behind, and those in the Olaizola camp must have sensed thunder clouds looming. All was now proceeding according to plan for the man from Ibero; it seemed the weaknesses he had shown in the first plays were now out of his system and that he was set to surge. It seemed unthinkable that he would fail to win another point in the match, but an excellent cross into the left hand wall from Aimar was to prove the opening salvo of a run of the fifteen straight points which took him to his third Manomanista title unopposed.

So what was it that precipitated this extraordinary second phase of the final? Was it the brilliance of Aimar Olaizola or the mental meltdown of his opponent? In reality, the two were intrinsically linked. For Aimar something clicked and every point was gilded with pure class. At 6-7, Irujo was undone by a terrific long serve, at 7-7 he was forced into miscuing an overhead volley, at 8-7 he was left reeling by a gantxo, then a volley into the corner at 9-7. Aimar was nonchalant and relaxed in his excellence, but relentlessly focused. As Irujo sensed fewer and fewer openings, the road of return becoming ever longer, his mistakes multiplied. More in hope than anything, he left a serve on 14-7 which he thought was going long. It did not, and Aimar strode on apace. When another serve passed him by, Irujo could take no more. He wandered, looking resigned, to his chair for a time out and in a sudden moment of rage kicked it to pieces, leaving his hapless botillero Patxi Eugi stranded on his feet. This is the second final in a row against Aimar Olaizola where Irujo has done this. Now, as in the 2011 Cuatro y Medio final, neither Eugi’s counsel nor the letting off of steam made any difference to the outcome of the game. Aimar returned to serve his way to 19-7 before Irujo hit wide twice on the bounce to cede match point. The champion elect wasted no time in tapping the ball with ease into an ocean of space, and as the board switched to 22 he raised his arms to the adulation of the crowd. Irujo knew he had been soundly beaten and congratulated his conqueror with a smile, eschewing his temper reserved for the courtside furniture. Two great champions saluted the crowd, but in 2012 there is little doubt as to who sits on the pinnacle of the sport. Aimar Olaizola, txapeldun.

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-1, 5-1, 5-7, 22-7
Service winners/errors
: Olaizola 3/0, Irujo 1/0
: Olaizola 13/1, Irujo 6/9
Balls hit
: 253
Match time
: 46:49 with 11:01 of actual play
: Asier Olaizola for his brother Aimar, and Patxi Eugi for Irujo

San Fermin Pairs Announced

The six pairings for the prestigious San Fermin pairs tournament were announced this morning at the centre Aranzadi Viálogos de La Caixa in Pamplona. They are as follows:



The groups and precise calendar will be announced on 2nd July. In addition to the showpiece tournament, the festival will also involve the Marco Real challenge on 13th July, an evening of three matches featuring a cuatro y medio game between Arretxe II and Retegi Bi, a pairs match between either Olaizola II or Berasaluze VI – Beroiz and Gonzalez – Laskurain and a mano a mano game between Urrutikoetxea and Ezkurdia.

2010 Pairs Champions Zubieta and Xala are reunited

2010 Pairs Champions Zubieta and Xala are reunited

Image from Aspepelota on Flickr, under creative commons

Pelota on ETB, 22nd-24th June: Manomanista Final

This weekend sees the blue riband event of mano a mano pelota with the Manomanista Championship final between the two greatest players of the decade, Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo. There is little one can say about these stars of the game which has not been said a thousand times over, so suffice it to say that this should be a stunning sporting occasion. Irujo was forced to fight to get past Mikel Idoate in his semi, while Olaizola thrashed Oinatz Bengoetxea in his. Bengoetxea subsequently went on to ease past Idoate 22-9 in the third place play off, demonstrating just how impressive Aimar’s mauling of him was. However, anything can happen in a big final and while Olaizola has been the better player over the past year, Irujo is extraordinarily hard to beat when the stakes are at their highest. Don’t miss it.

Friday 22nd June, Urrestilla



Sunday 24th June, Bilbao


Followed by OLAIZOLA II v MARTINEZ DE IRUJO Manomanista Final

To watch, go to,

Olaizola II and Irujo meet in another final

Olaizola II and Irujo meet in another final

Image from Aspepelota under creative commons

The Dos Paredes Interview: Gorka Esteban

Gorka Esteban Tercilla was born in Ezcaray, La Rioja, and is one of an exciting generation of young pelotaris emerging from that province. He made his professional debut for Aspe in September 2010 at the age of 20 after a string of outstanding results as an amateur, including victory in the Under-22 World Championship and the Torneo Diario Vasco in 2008. His best result to date as a professional came in the 2011 Promocion Pairs where he and fellow Riojan Miguel Merino finished as runners up. Dos Paredes thanks Gorka for taking time out from his busy schedule to answer these questions!

How did you start playing pelota? Did it run in your family?
I like pelota because of my dad, he has always played pelota, frontenis and pala and I started playing because he used to take me with him to the frontón.

How old were you when you started?
I started at a very early age; I think that my first game dressed in white was at the age of 4.

When did you decide you wanted be become a professional?
I don’t think you get to decide that. All the children that start playing pelota, like in any other sports, want to play in the highest levels. In order to achieve it, you have to work hard and be lucky.

Which players were your inspiration growing up and who do you look up to now as a young professional?
As a child, you always admire those who win titles. Later, you have a look at different things, how they play or things they do. Right now, the top pelota players are Irujo and Olaizola II, but most of the Rioja players look up to Titin III.

Did you find the leap from the amateur to the professional ranks a big one in terms of level?
In the first games, you notice the difference between the professional and amateur ranks. In amateur matches, it is easier to score a point. In the professionals, all games are really hard, faster and longer

What do you consider to be the best performance of your career to date and why?
I really don’t know, I couldn’t say. One of the most beautiful games was the final game of the Diario Vasco, the final game of the sub-22 championship, the debut, the Promocion pairs final with Miguel Merino.

What would you say is your best shot?
I think it is the left hook

Obviously the Promocion pairs championship didn’t go as you might have hoped, having been runner up in 2011, but what are your goals for the remainder of 2012?
My goal since I started is to work on my shots that need more improving and little by little to improve my game. I know I need to improve in the singles competitions.

Pelotaris seem like a close knit community, especially those from Rioja. Is it difficult when your friends become your sporting rivals?
You need to know the difference. Outside the fronton nothing changes and they’re your friends, but inside the court, they are your rivals and you want to beat them.

There seems to be a plethora of young talent emerging from La Rioja at the moment, with you, David Merino, Rico IV and Untoria all having turned professional in the past couple of years. Good things must be going on in the region at grass roots level?
Miguel Merino, Cecilio, David Merino and I come from the same club and they have been with us from the beginning and have given us their support. We all have also trained in Titin’s center, where we joined Untoria, who comes from Najera. Joaquín (Plaza), Titin III and, in my case Goyo, have helped us to reach here. We have not spent so much time with Rico, he trains with people from his empresa. In La Rioja, people have been doing things well, they have great potential and you will hear a lot about them.

Describe a typical day in the life of Gorka Esteban. How long do you train for and what does your training involve?
We train every day except for the game day and the day before, when he just go running, do some exercise and stretch. A common practice day would be to start training at 10:30, when we play pelota more or less for 90 min, or we do conditioning, technique… It depends on the day. More or less, we finish every day at about 13:30. We have lunch and then, at 16:00 or so, I go to college. After classes, dinner and to sleep.

How do you look after your hands? Have you ever had any major problems?
I have not had serious injuries so far with my hands, and when they are painful, I usually go to Logroño to see physios Pedro and Ana. They are really good and they treat us well. My worst injury was one I had a short time after my debut when I had two straight torn ligaments and I had to rest for two months.

What do you think you would have ended up doing if you hadn’t become a professional pelotari?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I imagine I would have spent more time studying and I would have kept on playing pelota as an amateur. Pelota is what I like most and I would have kept on playing.

Do you combine your time on the fronton with any other sports, either for fitness or for fun? What other sports do you follow?
In the past I practised many sports. Nowadays, I do few and if I practise any, it is for a short period of time. I like all sports, I love sport, there is something appealing in all of them, mainly in all those that take place in the fronton. As far as following other sports, tennis, basketball, soccer, handball….

How do you like to spend your time away from the fronton? You are studying?
I like being with my friends, relatives, going to the movies, going to the mountains, travelling, etc… Studying is a must-do, even more so if we take into account this economic crisis in which we are living.

If you could invite any five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be?
The five members of my family that are always with me.

Follow Gorka on Twitter: @gorka_ezka

Many thanks to Igor Lansorena for his help with the translation

Images 1 and 2 are mine, image 3 courtesy of Aspepelota under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Olaizola II annihilates Bengoetxea VI in a whirlwind of dominance

Saturday 9th June, Pamplona


Manomanista Semi-Final

There was an accepted view that this semi-final would be close. Oinatz Bengoetxea claimed to be in perfect condition, and while his form has not scintillated this year, his opponent was in a questionable physical state. Had Aimar Olaizola, fabulous all year and for all of last year too, not been fighting an injury to his right arm, his favouritism would have been far more marked but as it was, this was viewed as an opportunity for Oinatz to get to a major final again, a chance to emulate his championship winning performance of 2008. However, despite his making him ‘instinctively pull back’ every time he went to hit the ball with his right hand, Aimar was utterly brutal and left Oinatz in tatters and fighting for scraps, few of which he could pick up. The star from Goizueta confessed his shock in winning so easily, and if his physical state holds ahead of the final at Bizkaia on 24th June, Juan Martinez de Irujo may begin to suffer sleepless nights.

Aimar rocketed into his stride from the very first strike; it took him a mere twelve minutes to establish an 8-0 lead. He relinquished the serve with a falta thereafter but Bengoetxea was unable to capitalise on the chance he was given and Olaizola powered on to 17-1, an unprecedented level of dominance against a former Manomanista champion. In 36 minutes and only 145 balls, he wrapped up the game 22-5, with ten winners, five service winners and only two errors. Bengoetxea could only muster two winners plus one service winner, and committed six errors. Aimar’s determination and efficiency were breathtaking. He showed no mercy whatsoever in his domination, showing off the full range of his shot play and carving balls with his left as maybe only he can do. Tickets for the final, another classic between Aimar and Irujo, go on sale tomorrow and are expected to sell out in the blink of an eye. It could be a match for the ages.

Pelota on ETB, 8th-10th June

Friday 8th June, Logrono



Sunday 10th June

There is no professional pelota on the web channels on Sunday as Aspe’s matches in Logrono take place at 20:15, later than the usual slot. They will be on ETB1 at that time for anyone who is in the Basque Country and has a television. However, there is some amateur pelota mano on at 17:25 until 19:25.

To watch, go to,

The Manomanista Semi Final between Olaizola II and Bengoetxea VI is not on ETB as the rights are owned by Nitro, but it takes place on Saturday at 18:00 in Pamplona.

Ezkurdia labours past gutsy Untoria to set up clash with Jaunarena

Sunday 3rd June, Eibar


Promocion Manomanista Semi-Final

Joseba Ezkurdia completed the line up for the Promocion Manomanista final with a tough victory over Alvaro Untoria at Astelena on Sunday evening. The man from Arbizu, who has already taken so many scalps in his short career, was the clear favourite here despite the ankle injury which had forced the postponement of this match and put his championship in severe doubt. He tested his fitness late last week and declared his readiness to play, but despite appearing physically well in the match itself, he finished it in some discomfort. Untoria, bidding to give Rioja another finalist in what has been a golden year for them so far, refused to be bowed by Ezkurdia’s reputation as the next big thing and pushed him all the way, fighting back from 1-11 down to 15-15 and 18-18. Ezkurdia had just too much in the end, finishing the game with two service errors and a visible sigh of relief. He will play Jon Jaunarena, Promocion Pairs champion, in the final, in what promises to be a closely fought encounter. Aspe announced this morning that the final will be held off until 30th June (at Labrit) due to Ezkurdia’s ankle problems and a hand issue for Jaunerena.

Manomanista: Irujo wards off determined Idoate challenge for final place

Sunday 3rd June, Eibar


Manomanista Semi-Final

Juan Martinez de Irujo is making something of a speciality of giving his opponents a head start. Before the Astelena crowd had had time to visit the bar and settle into their seats, the four-time champion was 6-0 down against a young talent whose tail was very much up. Irujo threw away the first point by falling low and Idoate took advantage of his own balls by firing off two service winners before Irujo went low again. It was 5-0 when Idoate pulled off an easy drop volley straight from the return of serve and he then showed that he could live with the favourite in a longer rally too, moving Irujo all over the fronton before nailing him with a cross court ball to the corner. Despite the clear ascendency of Idoate at this early stage however, there is always the assumption that Irujo will come hurtling back, almost mocking his rival for ever believing they had a chance to take his scalp. When Idoate miscued a high ball into the wall to allow Irujo onto the scorecard at 6-1, it seemed the inevitable would happen, and indeed Irujo closed his challenger down to 5-6.

However, Idoate was to prove a tougher opponent than many had predicted. He is a player hovering on the edge of the top flight, and even though he ultimately lost here, he has surely thrown his name into the hat for selection in major tournaments over the next couple of years. He prevented Irujo from drawing level by saving a dos paredes and then striking a winning txoko, and proceeded to pull away again, opening his lead up to 11-5 with real authority and total command of the playing area. Irujo was made to look ordinary. Sadly for the underdog and for his vocal fans though, it was not to last. Being left behind twice over was not to Irujo’s taste and he shifted into a gear which Idoate simply could not match. He seized the serve back with a txoko to make it 6-11 and proceeded to take the next ten points. Idoate had previously played Irujo like a puppet on a string but now the man from Ibero returned the favour with interest, dominating points straight from the serve and never allowing Idoate into a position of advantage. Idoate was still very much in the match at 11-12 and had a golden chance to re-establish some momentum when he finally managed to pin Irujo back, but the opportunity was blown with an unforced error. Everything was going Irujo’s way as he raced to 16-11.

Idoate, however, is not one to give in and when Irujo went high on the side wall for 16-12 he gradually worked his way back into contention. A brace of errors from Irujo and he found himself within two at 14-16 and then only one away from parity due to a high ball from Irujo for 16-17. Irujo kept his nose in front every time Idoate came too close however, and extended his advantage to 19-16 with an easy volley and an untouchable ball over Idoate’s head. Again though, Idoate doggedly returned, closing to 18-19 when Irujo completely missed the ball after a close battle at the front. Again though, Idoate blew his big chance, hitting unnecessarily low to gift Irujo the serve again with the finishing line in sight. This time, Idoate had nothing left to give and as Irujo cleaned things up he surely left the fronton ruing what might have been. Not many can beat Irujo at this stage in the Manomanista, but Idoate succeeded in giving him an almighty shock. Irujo proceeds to play either Olaizola II or Bengoetxea VI in the final, but Idoate will surely someday reach these exalted heights.

Scoring sequence: 0-6, 5-6, 5-11, 16-11, 16-12, 16-14, 17-14, 17-16, 19-16, 19-18, 22-18.

Winners/errors: Irujo 14/8 (no service winners), Idoate 10/8 (3 service winners)

Irujo eyes another Manomanista title

Irujo eyes another Manomanista title

Pelota on ETB, 1st-3rd June

There are no Manomanista games tonight owing to the postponement of Aimar Olaizola’s game against Oinatz Bengoetxea but instead ETB will show an Asegarce-run evening featuring two matches from Ortuella in Bizkaia. Sunday sees a semi-final double header. Ezkurdia, formerly in doubt due to a sprained ankle, was yesterday passed fit to play Untoria in his Promocion semi and then Idoate attempts to upset the apple cart and find a way past Irujo into the main championship final.

Friday 1st June, Ortuella



Sunday 3rd June, Eibar

17:00 (CEST) UNTORIA v EZKURDIA Promocion Manomanista Semi Final

Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v IDOATE Manomanista Semi Final

To watch, go to,