Friday 1st May
OLAZABAL beat OLAETXEA 22-14
The crowd at Aritzbatalde in Zarautz was not sizeable but those who did turn out to witness this quarter final match between two young talents were treated to an enthralling tie. Mikel Olazabal, the 22 year old from Areso has turned a lot of heads since he entered the professional ranks in 2007 and is surely destined for the heights. In the ASPE forward’s way stood Mikel Olaetxea from Asegarce, two years his senior and with experience on his side. It appeared as if experience would win out, but that was to reckon without the tenacity of Olazabal.
For the first half of the game, Olazabal was forced to dance to Olaetxea’s tune. The young Navarran allowed himself to be dominated and appeared ill at ease under pressure. It was Olaetxea’s impressive service which won him his initial advantage. The man from Lizartza regularly sent the ball barrelling to the back of the fronton at the 100kph mark, and although Olazabal was adept at making contact, he found controlling his returns to be beyond his powers. It was not until the score stood at 6-1 to Olaetxea that Olazabal managed to duel with his opponent on equal terms. Indeed, it looked very much as if he had the point in his pocket until ambition got the better of him and his attempted winner off both walls fell short of the frontis. In the very next point, Olaetxea marched onwards by showing the younger player how such a shot should be played. Olaetxea’s other masterful tactic was to bombard Olazabal with high balls, forcing him to attempt ever riskier overhead volleys. For much of the time, he was up to the task and scrapped impressively, but the pressure wore him down. At 9-1, it seemed as if the die had been cast for Olazabal.
However, one error can open doors for an opponent who seems down and out and so it proved here. When Olaetxea hit too low, it was Olazabal’s turn to show that he would not lie down. After triumph in the dog fight of a point which reduced his deficit to five points, Olazabal unleashed his own serving power. For three points in a row, he served fast and long before winning with a drop shot into the corner, his opponent still rooted to the back of the fronton. It was a tactic so simple and so effective, and Olaetxea was powerless to stop it. Olazabal did concede the serve in the next play, when he attempted the same thing and undercooked it but it was only to cost him one point. From 7-11 down, the young pelotari raced to a lead of 13-11, his serve once again leading the way. He also proved adept at forcing Olaetxea into risky shots where he was often found wanting. Although Olazabal conceded another two points, the result never now seemed in doubt; Olazabal grew a foot taller while Olaetxea’s composure ebbed away with each passing shot. When the latter won serve at 14-20, he blew his last chance with an unnecessary error which, rather than inducing fury in its creator, sparked only resignation. Olazabal wasted no time in adding the points he required for a victory made all the more impressive for the fight back he was forced to produce.
Olazabal now proceeds to the semi finals, where he will face another young talent, 19 year old Mikel Beroiz on May 17th. The other semi final, to be held on the same day, will be between Jokin Argote and Asier Arruti. The latter booked his place yesterday by defeating Pablo Urrizelki 22-18.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 1-9, 2-9, 7-9, 7-11, 13-11, 13-12, 13-13, 14-13, 19-13, 19-14 and 22-14.