Tag Archives: Lemuno

Cuatro y Medio: the Qualification Fight Intensifies

The Cuatro y Medio Championships, both the main competition and its Promocion counterpart, and nearing their endgame. As the semi-finals approach, we take a look at what happened this week. Who is through, who is out and who must play for their survival?

There were two thrillingly close games in the main championship last week. The first of these took place in Leitza on Friday, where BENGOETXEA VI beat XALA 22-20. The Navarrese town of Leitza, which sits a short distance over the border from Gipuzkoa, is something of a pelota hotbed. Bengoetxea is one of three current professionals who hail from there (the others being Barriola and Jaunarena). Home support can act in one of two ways, either putting further pressure on a player or pushing him to greater heights, and fortunately for Bengoetxea, the latter scenario played out. It was, however, desperately close; neither player managed a lead of more than three. In the middle portion of the game, Xala briefly threatened to put Bengoetxea on the rack with a quick fire run of four points, consisting of two errors from his opponent and two crunching hooks of his own. However, just as at every point where one or other pelotari found themselves with a lead, it was cancelled out. The game was not a vintage one from the point of view of consistently staggering shot play, although both proved why they are top tier professionals on various occasions, but for sheer tension it would have been hard to beat. The home favourite looked like he had finally broken from the shackles in the closing stages, going ahead 20-17 with the line in sight, but Xala fought back to 20-21 before a commanding txoko sealed the day. Bengoetxea now has one win and one loss in the quarter final league, so his fate depends on what happens this weekend. Xala, with two defeats, is out.

In Pamplona on Saturday, affairs were even tighter when BERASALUZE VIII pulled a 22-21 triumph against MARTINEZ DE IRUJO out of the fire. Whatever Berasaluze’s multitudinous merits, this result ranks as an upset, especially given the circumstances of the play which unfolded. Irujo went ahead 10-1 and 14-4 and to fall this far behind to a player of his quality should be terminal. However, Berasaluze, proving once more that in tenacity he is second to nobody in the world of pelota, came roaring back with a display littered with stinging hooks and audacious volleys. Irujo appeared utterly powerless as his Bizkaian rival took an unlikely 18-14 lead. There was a further twist when Irujo looked to have restored order, seizing the lead back at 19-18, but having come so far, there was no way Berasaluze would let the victory slip away. The players tied on 19, 20 and 21 but it was the underdog who dealt the final blow, winning by the smallest possible margin before the crowd rose in a standing ovation richly deserved by both. This result means Berasaluze is assured of a place in semi-finals, having defeated Barriola last weekend. Irujo, with a narrow victory and a narrow loss to his name, must beat Barriola on Sunday to go through.

Things were rather easier for the defending champion OLAIZOLA II, who was pushed hard in the early stages but in the end registered a comfortable 22-13 win over ARRETXE II.  Iker Arretxe has been something of a revelation in these championships, reaching the quarters by beating Titin and then backing this up with an easy win over Xala. Keeping pace with Olaizola at the mid-point of this game alone would have represented an improvement on his Pairs Championship form of earlier this year, but Aimar found a fifth gear when pressed and eased into the semi-finals with his second win, having beaten Bengoetxea by the same margin last week. Arretxe and Bengoetxea will play off this weekend for the second semi berth from Group A.

Back in Group B, BARRIOLA fought off RETEGI BI, winning 22-15 in Bilbao. The match was extremely tight in the early stages, with the protagonists locked together at 11-11. However, from this juncture it was the defender, unusually in Cuatro y Medio, who imposed himself. Barriola took seven points in a row to lead 18-11 and although Retegi closed to 18-14 he found the route back barred to him. Barriola therefore lives to fight another day, though he must defeat Irujo this weekend, while Retegi is out whatever the result of his game with Berasaluze VIII.

This weekend’s fixtures are:
Friday 9th November, Beasain: Berasaluze VIII v Retegi Bi
Saturday 10th November, Pamplona: Bengoetxea VI v Arretxe II
Sunday 11th November, Eibar: Barriola v Martinez de Irujo
Monday 12th November, Tolosa: Olaizola II v Xala

In the Promocion Championship, the semi-finalists are all set. From Group 1, Elezkano and Rico IV go through. Elezkano won his place thanks to an impressive 22-8 win over a far more experienced opponent in Jon Apezetxea. His only defeat in the tournament has been a narrow loss to Olazabal, and making it to this stage is quite a coup for the teenager who has only been a professional since September. Rico IV beat an off-colour Olazabal 22-12 to book his berth. In Group 2 everything came down to the final weekend but it was Jaunarena and Untoria who received their tickets to the last four. Gorka needed a win over Lemuno to progress but he fell three points short, losing 22-19. Jaunarena, playing in his home town of Leitza as a curtain raiser to fellow local Bengoetxea, did what he needed to do in defeating Untoria, but needed to wait until the other match was completed before absolute confirmation of his progression. Untoria goes through despite his loss, thanks to Gorka’s defeat. Both the semi finals take place next weekend. Rico IV plays Untoria in Najera on Friday 16th while the details of Jaunarena v Elezkano are yet to be confirmed.

Promocion Cuatro y Medio success for Gorka, Olazabal, Untoria and Elezkano

The first rotation of quarter final league matches in the Promocion Cuatro y Medio took place this weekend and while two saw easy wins, two were very tight indeed. First in the easy winners category came Gorka Esteban, who thumped Jon Jaunarena 22-9 in Logrono on Sunday. This was another superb performance from the 22 year old Riojan, who had eliminated Ezkurdia in a nail biter to get to this stage, against arguably more fancied opposition. He gets home advantage in his next game on Saturday, when he plays Untoria in his native town of Ezcaray. Equally impressive in victory was Mikel Olazabal who dispatched Jon Apezetxea 22-5 in Tolosa last night. Olazabal was probably the favourite here, but given Apezetxea’s impressive defeat of Zabaleta in the first round the signs were that this would be closer than it was. In the first of two cliff-hangers, Danel Elezkano a professional for less than two months, showed great character in coming from behind to snatch a 22-21 win from Jorge Rico in Balmaseda. Rico looked to have things sown up, but a combination of several errors on his part and the determination of his young opponent put paid to his hopes. Also grabbing a 22-21 win was Alvaro Untoria who beat Stephane Lemuno in Bilbao on Saturday. As with Rico on Friday, Lemuno seemed home and dry, but the Riojan proved why you should never relax until the line has been crossed. The fixtures for the next rotation are as follows:

Friday 26th October, Arrigorriaga: OLAZABAL v ELEZKANO II
Saturday 27th October, Ezcaray: GORKA v UNTORIA
Saturday 27th October, Pamplona: LEMUNO v JAUNARENA
Sunday 28th October, Eibar: APEZETXEA v RICO IV

Promocion Championship Results: week nine

Friday 2nd March, Mutliva: SARALEGI* – ARETXABALETA beat MENDIZABAL III – PENAGARIKANO* to gain their third point of the competition. It is likely too little too late however for Aretxabaleta and his injured regular partner Lemuno.

Saturday 3rd March, Pamplona: OLAZABAL – LARRINAGA beat TAINTA – IBAI ZABALA* 22-12 and as a result, draw level with Jaunarena and Cecilio at the top of the table. They are second on points difference. Tainta and usual partner Argote remain down and out.

Sunday 4th March, Logrono: RICO IV – UNTORIA beat JAUNARENA – CECILIO 22-19 in an unlikely slip up for the top pair. They remain in first place, but will have to be on guard from the host of couples waiting in the wings.

The scheduled match in Amorebieta between URRUTIKOETXEA – IZA and  GORKA – ARRUTI, both very much in the running for a semi-final place, was postponed as both Urrutikoetxea and Iza are injured.








JAUNARENA – CECILIO 9 7 185 136 49
OLAZABAL – LARRINAGA 9 7 180 137 43
URRUTIKOETXEA – IZA 8 5 152 138 14
RICO IV – UNTORIA 9 5 171 174 -3
GORKA – ARRUTI 8 4 148 140 8
LEMUNO – ARETXABALETA 9 3 154 174 -20
MENDIZABAL III – L.GALARZA 9 3 142 180 -38
TAINTA – ARGOTE 9 1 134 187 -53

Cuatro y Medio Promocion Final: Mendizabal III nets first professional txapela

Saturday 3rd December, Tolosa


Aitor Mendizabal has only been a professional pelotari since 17th July but on Saturday he took the first steps towards realising his staggering potential, beating Stephane Lemouneau to the Promocion Cuatro y Medio crown. The 22 year old from Antzuola played a consistently excellent tournament, beating Zabaleta and Rico IV comfortably on his way to the semi-finals, before comprehensive wins over Ongay and Albisu. His only significant challenge came from his eventual final opponent Lemuno, whom he squeezed past 22-21 in his second semi-final, halting a charging comeback at the very last minute. Given the closeness of their previous encounter, another tight match was expected here, but in the event Mendizabal was easily superior to his more experienced rival and showed little by way of nerves as he strode to victory.

With the exception of the first point, Mendizabal was ahead throughout, extending his advantage as far as 11-4 and 17-7. Lemuno, at whose behest the final was delayed from the previous weekend as a result of his hand injury, looked aimless and lacking in ideas. Many had Lemuno down as their favourite for the title, despite his sketchy performances in qualifying, and he was not without his chances to fulfil his billing. He threatened another comeback against his young opponent in closing to 11-17 and 15-19 but in the end his errors were his own undoing. Two late service fouls were the nails in his coffin and Mendizabal showed no sign of choking, deploying his customary verve and pace to pick up the first txapela of what promises to be a successful career.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-5, 3-5, 3-6, 4-6, 4-11, 7-11, 7-17, 11-17, 11-18, 12-18, 12-19, 15-19, 15-22

Service winners: Lemuno 5, Mendizabal 1

Service errors: Lemuno 2, Mendizabal 0

Winners: Lemuno 7, Mendizabal 11

Errors: Lemuno 5, Mendizabal 3

4 ½ line faults: Lemuno 1, Mendizabal 0

Match time: 53 minutes

Botilleros: Salva Vergara with Lemuno y and José Mari Mendizábal with his son Mendizabal III

Aitor Mendizabal, an impressive prospect

Aitor Mendizabal, an impressive prospect

Picture: mine

4 1/2 Promocion final postponed, and a little trip to Euskadi

In addition to the main Cuatro y Medio final, postponed until 4th December due to Aimar Olaizola’s broken finger, the Promocion final has now been delayed. Stephane Lemouneau and Aitor Mendizabal were due to play this coming Saturday but their match has been moved to Saturday 3rd December because of Lemouneau’s hand problems.

On another note, I am going to the Basque Country tomorrow, despite the fact that there are no Cuatro y Medio finals to attend. The best laid scheme failed to work out, but I will be in Pamplona on Saturday and Eibar on Sunday and will report back on the matches when I’m home! Until next week, agur!

Cuatro y Medio: Week 1 Round Up

Three games took place in the first round of the 2010 Cuatro y Medio Championship at the weekend. Two matches went to form, although in one the margin of victory was larger than expected, and the third produced a surprise.

In Urretxu on Friday, Aritz Lasa shaded 2010 debutant Lemuno in an error strewn match, to take his place in the last eight, where he will play Patxi Ruiz or Olaetxea. At 19-8, it appeared that the forward from Gipuzkoa would win with ease, but to his credit, his inexperienced rival fought back to 22-17, and leaves the competition with his head held high.

Gernika saw the first upset of the competition as Inigo Diaz trumped Asier Olaizola 22-8. The superiority of the underdog was never in question as he led 2-0, 13-2, 16-4, 20-8 and 22-8. Diaz will now play either Urrutikoetxea or pairs champion Zubieta.

Also on Saturday, Oinatz Bengoetxea, still flaunting his white hot summer form, demolished Mikel Beroiz at Labrit. The former Manomanista champion dominated the game and never allowed his younger opponent any room to move, dispensing the biggest thrashing in the competition since 2003, when Berasaluze VIII beat Inaki Larralde by the same margin. Oinatz struck ten winners to only one error while Beroiz managed just two winners, a paltry tally when set alongside his six errors. The victor has sent a clear signal of intent, and will now play either Barriola or Saralegi in the last eight, with the confidence of having recently swept the former aside on the way to the Torneo del Nitro title in Zalla.

The remaining first round matches take place from Friday to Sunday, and I will publish broadcast information when it becomes available.

Inigo Diaz produced the surprise of the week

Inigo Diaz produced the surprise of the week

Image from El Correo

Virgen Blanca: Plain Sailing for Irujo and Beloki

Thursday 5th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz


Torneo Virgen Blanca

Manomanista champion Juan Martinez de Irujo and Ruben Beloki last night qualified with ease for the semi finals of the Torneo Virgen Blanca at Ogueta. The pre-match favourites never looked troubled in a 22-12 romp against an Asegarce partnership that showed fight but lacked both firepower and coordination. They will now meet Xala and Barriola for a place in Monday’s final.

From the gun, the eventual winners asserted their dominance and it looked to all the world as if the margin of victory would err on the side of the embarrassing. Before their opponents had settled into the game, Irujo had masterminded a 5-0 lead by way of three commanding winners, aided by two nervous mistakes from Apraiz, who never truly hit his stride. There was a palpable sense of relief from the assembled masses when Pablo and Apraiz managed their first point, thanks to a ball from Beloki which fell short, but they could not halt the march of their rivals. Pablo showed typically sprightly endeavor, and some promising defence, in the exchanges which followed, but three more errors from Apraiz took the margin to 10-1. From that juncture, a miracle would have been needed for the Asegarce pair.

However, Pablo, pocket fighter that he is, refused to lie down and proceeded to take the score line into the realms of respectability. Irujo struck a beautiful crosscourt airez to stretch his lead to 11-2, as if reminding all present of his superiority, but Pablo, not bowed by the status of his opponent, struck back with a dominant txoko, to the delight of the crowd. He followed this up shortly afterwards with another, followed by a searing crosscourt in a point where he ran rings around Irujo. Apraiz too got in on the act, all too briefly, haring forward to push Beloki long and to a point of no return.

The signs looked better for the underdogs, but their resurgence was to be short lived. Apraiz miscued on 6-11, and raised his arms skywards in disgust, knowing that he had thrown all momentum away. From then on it was plain sailing for Irujo and Beloki, despite the dogged resistance of Pablo who picked up any scraps afforded to him, scoring several impressive winners to drag his pair’s total to 12. Irujo it was who stole the show however, piling up fourteen winners in the course of the match to Pablo’s six. His veneer slipped only momentarily, with a falta on 19-11, but by then the game was up and his indignation at the close call soon forgotten. He sealed the win with a gantxo and two service winners, leaving nobody with in any doubt as to who was boss on the night. Beloki was as solid as a rock, providing the magic carpet ride for Irujo’s brutal finishing. The defender from Burlada made only three errors, half the number of his young opponent’s. This was not Apraiz’s night, but his time will come. On this showing, Irujo and Beloki will present a formidable hurdle in the semi final, but the pair which awaits them is a classy one. An intriguing game is in prospect.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-1, 10-1, 10-2, 11-2, 11-6, 14-6, 14-7, 16-7, 16-9, 17-9, 17-11, 19-11, 19-12, 20-12, 22-12.

Winners: Martinez de Irujo 14, Berasaluze VIII 6, Beloki 0, Apraiz 0

Errors: Martinez de Irujo 3, Berasaluze VIII 2, Beloki 3, Apriaz 6

Also last night, Stephane Lemouneau (Lemuno) defeated Jon Ander Albisu in the all-Asegarce mano a mano encounter. The 24 year old Colombian-born Lemuno took the first game of the Torneo Manomanista Promoción La Blanca 22-13, out-powering and out-witting the 20 year old Albisu, who cracked under the pressure of the victor.


No sweat for Ruben Beloki

No sweat for Ruben Beloki

Image from: El Correo, by M. Fraile