Tag Archives: Irun

Irujo and Zabaleta resist late surge to take eighth win

Friday 15th January, Irun

Martinz de Irujo and Zabaleta maintained their excellent record, and with it their place at the top of the tree, but despite clear early supremacy here they were forced to fight off a determined comeback from Ezkurdia and Zubieta, who looked a different pair as the game progressed. The favourites raced ahead almost immediately, going up 6-1, and built their advantage with ease. The game was at their mercy with the score at 18-9. Ezkurdia proved no match whatsoever for Irujo, who out-thought him time and again. The older player controlled the fronton and consistently found space into which he could hit winners, having worked his opponent out of position.

It was Ezkurdia finding his feet which sparked a near miraculous rival on behalf of the trailing pair. They put together a run of seven straight points, and even when Irujo and Zabaleta regained the serve and extended their lead back to three at 19-16, Ezkurdia and Zubieta rallied once more, standing a mere point behind at 19-18. The play in this late spell of the game was of the highest quality. Both defenders were excellent throughout but here raised their level even more, neither willing to budge an inch. Zubieta’s tail was up and the former champion goaded and cajoled his young partner into ever greater confidence and resolve. The change in their body language from the first half of the match was marked, and the crowd responded in kind, sensing a grandstand finish. However, unfortunately both for them and for the comeback kings, Irujo put all ambitions of an upset to bed, taking control as a great player can. Three straight points sealed the deal and the table toppers surged to their eight win of the campaign. Time is running out for Ezkurdia and Zubieta, who need to start winning again soon. Things are close in the middle of the table though and this recovery must give them confidence in both their skills and their fighting spirit.

Scoring sequence: 2-1/ 6-1/ 6-2/ 7-2/ 7-4/ 8-4/ 9-4/ 9-6/ 10-6/ 10-7/ 11-8/ 15-8/ 15-9/ 18-9/ 18-16/ 19-16/ 19-18/ 22-18
Winners/errors: Irujo 13/4, Ezkurdia 10/3, Zabaleta 1/4, Zubieta 0/3
Match time: 72 minutes with 32 minutes of actual play

Irujo on top

Irujo on top

Rampant Titin and classy Merino ascend the ladder

Friday 24th February, Irun


Pairs Championship

This Championship has been billed from the start as a two horse race between Olaizola II-Beroiz and Martinez de Irujo-Barriola. However, thanks in part to the indifference of the latter pairing in the past few weeks, coupled with Irujo’s illness, a new contender is emerging. The Riojan combination of experience and youth had won five of its nine matches prior to Friday and sat in the midst of those seeking a way to squeeze into the last two semi-final berths. However, Titin and Merino’s efforts in Irun have lifted them into second place, ahead of dead certs Irujo and Barriola. That they find themselves in this elevated state is thanks to the sheer doggedness of Titin and the emerging class of David Merino, a towering beacon of future promise.

Titin and Merino had almost everything their way in this match. Titin took control right from the start with five clean winners in the first seven points. The other two points in this early passage came as a result of errors from Apraiz, who was put under searing pressure from the great veteran. Merino was the perfect foil, clean elegant and devastatingly accurate from any distance. Titin was out foxed by a short ball from Apraiz in the tenth point and fell short down the wall, but the Asegarce pair failed to produce a clean winner until the defender got one over Merino’s head at 1-12. After this confidence boost, a sign that scoring points was in fact possible, Bengoetxea picked up two in a row with a txoko and a cross court swipe while almost flat against the front wall. However, such moments of inspiration from the usually effervescent forward were few and far between. He chipped away at the Aspe lead in ones and twos, but only appeared to have discovered his true style when it was far too late, at least taking his pair into double figures with a run of three clean winners before the Riojans closed the deal. The winning point came from the hand of Merino, who demonstrating his will to be adventurous as well as merely solid, pulled off a txoko from an impressive distance.

Bengoetxea did not play badly, indeed he made only one error, but Titin was in magisterial form and struck twice as many winners as his opposite number, who could do little to break his control. Apraiz, although he began with little promise, found his range as the game progressed, but proved unable to disrupt Merino’s serenity. This loss has done little to help their cause, though they still have their chances. For Team Rioja however, it seems the only way is up. They will have home advantage against Olaizola and Beroiz this weekend and may fancy themselves to get close, although the table toppers are an entirely different proposition.

Scoring sequence: 9-0, 9-1, 12-1, 12-4, 13-4, 13-5, 14-5, 14-6, 16-6, 16-8, 17-8, 20-8, 20-11, 22-11.

Winners/errors: Titin III 14/1, Bengoetxea VI 7/1, Merino II 3/1, Apraiz 2/4

Match time: 54:00 with 20:14 of actual play

Balls hit: 439

Xala and Zubieta rise from the ashes

Friday 22nd January, Irun 


Pairs Championship Quarter Finals

Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino entered the fray in Irun as clear favourites, having won their first match in convincing style and lost their second by only a slender margin to the formidable pairing of Irujo and Beroiz. Berasaluze, always a handful owing to his never say die approach to the game, had looked in fine form, backed up by a typically solid partner in Begino. In contrast, Xala and Zubieta had lost both their matches, the last a marathon encounter with Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal, which must have sapped their resources both physically and mentally. However, form is only a guide to likely outcome.

Almost from the outset, Berasaluze looked to be chasing the game against an opponent in Xala who appeared determined to put the trials of the previous week behind him. After the Asegarce pair had won the first two points, the man from Lapurdi found his touch with an innocuous looking dab into the corner which Berasaluze was ill placed to reach. He then stamped his authority with a pinpoint gantxo before Zubieta got in on the act with a winner of his own from long range. In the blink of an eye, the favoured pair was 2-7 down.

Berasaluze showed flashes of his accustomed class and a recovery looked to be on the cards for the beleaguered Asegarce pairing. The diminutive forward outmanoeuvred Xala before volleying a winner to the corner to cut the lead to four points, and followed this with an airez winner and an aerial bombardment of Zubieta which eventually yielded fruit. However, the respite was temporary and Xala was not to be halted. Berasaluze and Begino would never get within three points of their rivals. The chief bread winner for the Aspe pair was the aforementioned Xala, who fired off a total of nine commanding winners, but Zubieta was the rock on which the victory was built. Zubieta has played well throughout the early stages of this tournament but here he grew in stature as part of a formidable partnership and eclipsed Begino commandingly.

The body language of the protagonists mirrored the scoreboard, as the magic figure of 22 came ever closer for the Aspe pair. Berasaluze is under normal circumstances irrepressible, a man you would want at your side in a fight, but here he knew the game was up and showed it. Apart from the odd shout of encouragement in the direction of Begino, he gave way only to silent, muttered curses. In contrast, Xala and Zubieta appeared as prize fighters who relished every moment of the conflict. Their desire for victory was encapsulated in their fervent protest at 11-15 when an apparent crosscourt winner from Xala was called wide. Last week’s gruelling defeat had done nothing to dent their resolve. As winners flowed, Xala punched the air in sheer glee. To his credit, Berasaluze tried to break out of his malaise but his efforts were often tense and hurried, such as the over arm volley attempt on 13-17 which should have netted him the point but instead fell short. While Xala flowed, he stuttered, and the few points gained were too little too late.

Berasaluze and Begino have the potential to make an impressive mark on this tournament but they will have to put this stinging defeat behind them and remember how to play as they know they can. Xala and Zubieta, clearly and rightly delighted, can now march on in confidence. Their next opponents will be Olaizola I and Patxi Ruiz, who look in better shape this year than last. With the belief their trip to Irun must have instilled however, they will be firm favourites.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-7, 6-7, 6-11, 7-11, 7-14, 8-14, 8-15, 10-15, 10-16, 13-16, 13-21, 15-21, 15-22.

Aitor Zubieta showed his worth

Aitor Zubieta showed his worth

Image from: Guaixe.net