Friday 15th January, Irun
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA 22-18
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