Sunday 14th October, Eibar
ARRETXE II beat MENDIZABAL III 22-13
Cuatro y Medio first round
The winner of the Promocion Cuatro y Medio gains automatic entry to the main championship the following year, and so it was that Aitor Mendizabal, so impressive in the second tier competition in 2011, took to the stage today. In his way was Iker Arretxe, a pelotari who blows hot and cold. Arretxe had a nightmare in the first weeks of 2012, repeatedly mauled in the Pairs Championship in the company of Aritz Begino, but here he reminded us of the talent he harbours. He was rarely stunning but for the most part showed impressive control, exploiting the infelicities of a younger player who proved unable to build on positions of strength.
It was Arretxe who eked out the early advantage with three varied winners, but Mendizabal set out to demonstrate the step up in class would not faze him, producing a txoko followed by a cross court winner to tie affairs at 3-3. However, Arretxe worked up little sweat in pulling away to 8-3, and in doing so a pattern was established of Mendizabal failing to capitalise on good positions. On 6-3, for example, he had the wide court at his mercy but rushed over eagerly into his attempted winner and pushed it wide. Again, with the score at 8-5 to Arretxe, Mendizabal blew any chance of coming within two points of the lead by failing to do nearly enough with a txoko and laying himself bare to a dos paredes from Arretxe. A similar pattern continued until the gap became sizeable at 12-6. From this juncture, some semblance of order descended upon Mendizabal and he began to play the shots of which we know him to be capable. He traded blows with Arretxe before embarking upon a run of four consecutive points , including two authoritative service winners, to come right back into the match at 11-14. However, just as the tide threatened to turn, Mendizabal again committed unnecessary sins. He struck a service falta for 11-15 and despite being let off the hook by a miscue from Arretxe committed the same sin again two points later. Arretxe, perhaps sensing the younger player’s despondency at his chances missed, seized the day thereafter, ceding only one more point on his way to a 22-13 win.
This match should have been closer than it was, but there can be no question that Iker Arretxe was the better player. His play was rarely scintillating but when he did open his shoulders the results were often quite excellent. Mendizabal showed flashes of the pace which took him to the second tier crown a year ago, but never settled and allowed too many chances to fall through his fingers. Arretxe now plays Titin, in what will surely be a sterner examination of his mettle.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 3-1, 3-3, 8-3, 8-5, 9-5, 9-6, 12-6, 12-7, 14-7, 14-11, 15-11, 15-12, 18-12, 18-13, 22-13
Winners/errors: Arretxe 12/7, Mendizabal 6/10
Balls hit: 247
Match time: 44:24 with 10:39 of actual play