Saturday 31st March, Vitoria-Gasteiz
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA 22-8
Pairs Championship Semi Final
Favourites Juan Martinez de Irujo and Jose Javier Zabaleta took first blood in the semi-finals with a resounding win over Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala at Ogueta on Saturday. The Asegarce pair went ahead, briefly, but got no further than 4-2. Irujo and Zabaleta pulled level at 4-4 and from here on in it was for the most part one way traffic. The eventual victors knew that to ensure success they had to nullify the threat of Olaizola, and they did this with great skill. Most of the other pairs in the championship have failed in this task, allowing the sport’s current number one far too much space to dictate, but Irujo and Zabaleta sent the ball sailing over Olazioa’s head as often as they were able, placing mounting pressure on Ibai Zabala. Zabala is relatively new to the game at this level and has surprised many in the standard of his play thus far, but he found the favourites too hot to handle and crumbled under their pressure, committing a catalogue of errors. He repeatedly hit short of the ideal as Zabaleta pushed him back, mercilessly. This gave Irujo plenteous room to swing. The trailing pair shadowed their opponents reasonably closely for a time, holding them at 6-8 and 7-9, but from this point on there was no comeback as the blues shot to 7-17. It was a great shame for the public of Vitoria-Gasteiz that the hoped for Irujo-Olaizola duel failed to materialise, but the aficionados must surely have appreciated a tactical master display by probably the strongest pair in the competition. Such an easy win puts them in an excellent position as far as qualification for the final is concerned, while Olaizola and Zabala will have to both win and address their gaping points deficit.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, 4-7, 5-7, 5 – 8, 6-8, 6-9, 7-9, 7-10, 7-11, 7-12, 7-13, 7-14, 7-15, 7-16, 7-17, 8-17, 8-18, 8-19, 8-20, 8-21, 8-22.
Service winners/errors: Irujo 7/0, Olaizola 0/0
Winners/errors: Irujo 13/1, Olaizola 4/2, Zabaleta 2/2, Zabala 1/5
Match time: 55:10
Balls hit: 388