Friday 21st December, Najera
XALA – BARRIOLA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-14
The 2013 Pairs Championship got underway last Friday with what looked like an outrightb mismatch. Xala and Barriola’s partnership is likely to consitute one of the most solid of the competition given their experience and individual class, while Arretxe and Begino were the whipping boys of 2012, rather mysteriously given a second chance. Much to the surprise of many, however, this was not a walkover and for the first half of the game at least, the underdogs held their own, giving Xala and Barriola a significant barrier to pass.
Arretxe and Begino went ahead in the early stages thanks to a brace of outright winners from the former, which very much contrary to the script. A Xala txoko got the favourites into the game however and from 3-3 onwards they began to build what looked to be an easy lead, with Xala effortlessly turning up the heat. However, Arretxe, not intimidated by the reputation of anyone, was on fire and out-manouvered his opponents single handedly to wrest the serve back. He cancelled out their deficit with a hook and a service winner to make it 6-6, before an error from Barriola gave them a 7-6 lead. Unfortunately for them though, Begino proved less sharp than his partner and two mistakes from the back meant a momentum swing back to the favourites who were then able to capitalise. As they built their lead from 8-7 to 15-8, 18-10 and 21-11, Xala demonstrated that he is in a different class to the plucky Arretxe. Going about his work in a characteristically cool manner the man from Iparralde showed off his full range of shot play, serving excellently and putting away winners to all corners of the fronton. He was ably assisted by the typically solid Barriola who as well as defending excellently as usual, put away winners of his own. Arretxe and Begino threatened a late flurry, moving from 11-21 to 14-21 thanks to an error apiece from Xala and Begino and a txoko from Arretxe, but it was too little too late as a miss from close in by Arretxe in the following point made the score 22-14.
The major difference in this match was between the forwards, where Xala was on a different level. His fourteen winners to three errors tell the tale of his dominance, set against the mere six winners put away by his opposite number. Begino played a solid enough match, but without the firepower up front, there was little he could do to advance their cause. Xala and Barriola, while not the most dynamic pairing of the line up, look set for a good tournament; once they found their stride the win came with ease.
Scoring sequence: 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 6-7, 10-7, 10-8, 15-8, 15-9, 15-10, 18-10, 18-11, 21-11, 21-14, 22-14
Winners/errors: Xala 14/3, Arretxe 6/1, Barriola 5/3, Begino 2/3
Balls hit: 597
Match time: 1:04.50 with 29:13 of actual play