Friday 15th January, Getaria
OLAIZOLA I – PATXI RUIZ beat TITIN III – PASCUAL 22-16
Pairs Championship Quarter Finals
Nobody seriously expected Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz to take the spoils last night in Getaria. Last year’s bottom couple opened this year’s championship last weekend just as they finished in 2009; disorganised, listless and down and out as they were defeated by Irujo and Beroiz. Their opponents here were Augusto Ibanez (Titin III) and Inigo Pascual, vanquishers of last year’s runners up, Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal, in week one. But what a difference a few days can make, for in week two, the habitual whipping boys dispatched their opponents with tactical astuteness, tenacity and skill. They wanted and needed this result and they were duly, and rightfully, rewarded.
The first two points of the encounter went the way of the eventual losers and many must have assumed that the evening would be business as usual. However, Asier and Patxi retaliated, taking the next three points and signalling their intent. Asier’s opening gambit was a scintillating dos paredes winner which barely scraped in. After an error from Pascual, Asier opened his shoulders again, this time whipping the ball in towards the side wall, Titin utterly outfoxed. The scoreboard inched towards parity at 7-7, errors and winners emanating from both pairs, who appeared evenly matched and poised for a titanic encounter.
Most would probably have bet on Asier and Patxi as the first partnership to crack but they confounded the doubters to open up a three point lead, the first such gap of the match, at 7-10. One sensed here a new determination in the play of the Asegarce pair; after forcing Pascual to hit low, Asier pulled off a great drop shot into a small space out wide which showed boundless confidence and not a little swagger. When Titin hit wild and wide on the very next point, a rare chance presented itself to the underdogs, a chance to open a considerable gap on a pair who had suffered a clear knock. However, this opportunity was squandered in all too familiar fashion, as Patxi threw away a long, evenly matched rally with a careless and mistimed overarm. Titin then seized the bait with two crosscourt swipes with which he clearly meant business.
At 10-10, the match appeared poised but the momentum stood firmly with the Aspe partnership. However, games can be turned on their heads by the actions of one player of four, and such was the case here. Inigo Pascual is usually solidity personified and had had a decent match up to this juncture, but he lost his way in the course of the next three points. He had no answer to Patxi Ruiz’s steepling long ball which took the score to 10-11 and then hit low twice in a row. A gantxo from Olaizola wrested the initiative further from his opponents before continuing indiscretions from Pascual handed them an 11-18 advantage, which became 11-19 with another winner from the curly headed forward. Asegarce tails were up.
Titin, 41 this week, has never been prepared to throw in the towel and the Riojan tiger came roaring back with a furious overarm smash and a beautifully measured txoko to reduce the deficit to five points. However, Asier defended his pair’s advantage like a brick wall, as demonstrated by his spectacular save of a Titin gantxo on 15-20. The forward from Goizueta scrambled for every scrap and there was nothing that even Titin could do. Fittingly, the game ended with another error from Pascual, his ninth. It is a night he will wish to forget.
Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz were unrecognisable from the pair who appeared so aimless last weekend. Here in Getaria their organisation and teamwork were exemplary, with Patxi particularly attentive in covering for Olaizola when he was stranded in the wide court. The native of Estella was a different player all round, solid and sometimes even inspirational in his role as defender. Indeed, it was largely in the battle of the defenders that the game was decided, and Pascual came off worst by a long chalk. Titin illuminated last week’s game, in which he overshadowed Aimar Olaizola with ease. He displayed flashes of that brilliance here but he never hit his stride, as Asier’s determination wore him away. If Asier and Patxi can maintain this level of play, this will surely not be their last win of the quarter finals. This win won them a vital point, and was a vital fillip.
Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 5-5, 5-6, 6-6, 6-7, 7-7, 7-10, 10-10, 10-17, 11-17, 11-19, 12-19, 14-19, 14-20, 15-20, 15-21, 16-21, 16-22.
Image from: Noticias de Navarra