Tag Archives: manomanista championship

Pelota on ETB, 10th-12th May

Friday 10th May, Tolosa


Followed by BEROIZ v ALBISU Manomanista

Sunday 12th May, Eibar


Followed by JAUNARENA v ZABALETA Manomanista

To watch, go to http://www.eitb.tvhttps://www.eitb.eus/es/television/etb-sat/or https://www.eitb.eus/es/deportes/deporte-en-directo/

Riojan rampage: Promocion Pairs and Manomanista previews

There was double joy for La Rioja this weekend. On Saturday, Gorka and Cecilio defeated Apezetxea and Larrinaga 22-11 to claim the remaining spot in the Promocion Pairs final. This is justice for the couple who dominated the round robin stages but who have squeezed through the semi finals by the skin of their teeth. They lost their first semi 21-22 to Rico IV and Untoria, leaving them in need of a win in week two. Win they did, but only by one point. A loss here would have seen them out, but the win meant they were afforded the chance to play off against Apezetxea and Larrinaga for the final. Thankfully for them, Saturday’s game proved rather less stressful and they took it at a canter. The final will therefore feature two Riojan pairs; Gorka and Cecilio will take on Rico IV and Untoria on Saturday in Logrono for the txapela.

Elsewhere, fellow Riojan David Merino won his Manomanista preview against Aitor Zubieta. It was an attritional game in Eibar and could have gone either way. Merino led for the majority of the encounter only for Zubieta to put in a late surge and lead 19-17. However, his charge ran out of steam and Merino held his nerve to take five straight points. His win means his hopes of making the Manomanista tournament proper are kept alive but he will need to get past Ezkurdia, who beat Aritz Lasa last week, to progress any further.

Untoria and Gorka face each other on Saturday at Adarraga

Untoria and Gorka face each other on Saturday at Adarraga

Photo: mine

Aimar Olaizola blows Martinez de Irujo away for third Manomanista crown

Sunday 24th June, Bilbao
Manomanista Final

This final, pelota’s showpiece event, promised a gargantuan tussle, a fight to the death between the players of their generation where no quarter would be given. In reality, we got a near walkover. Juan Martinez de Irujo’s implosion must however in no way devalue Aimar Olaizola’s devastating performance, for this result was the product of the Goizuetarra’s irresistible force. Olaizola was dominant in every conceivable way, both in this play and in his rock solid state of mind and Irujo had no answers. This sterling victory is the logical conclusion of a year in which Olaizola has been the best of the best. Throughout the Pairs Championship, he swatted all comers aside with disdain and was only prevented from attaining what many viewed as an inevitable txapela when partner Beroiz succumbed to injury in the semi-finals. He approached the Manomanista as favourite only to find his mere participation in grave doubt owing to an injury to his right arm. However, with the aid of match postponements, he set himself on course, overcoming a dogged Retegi Bi in the quarters and flattening Bengoetxea VI in the semis. Irujo had had to work harder for his place in the final, having very nearly been undone by Idoate in the last four, but he is a notoriously tough customer in finals. Not so for Aimar Olaizola who took 46 minutes and 49 seconds to dismantle him, body and soul.

The opening phase of the match, belying what was to come later on, was close and tense. Aimar hit the ground running with a gantxo winner, followed by a further three points based around a strong serve to go up 4-0 before Irujo had had the chance of a look in. He ceded the serve by going wide for 4-1 but Irujo could not capitalise, hitting the side wall high to restore Aimar’s four point advantage. Irujo took the next point with a cross court winner however and began to make inroads, closing to 5-5 with some dominating play before going ahead 7-5 thanks to a stunningly placed dos paredes. Irujo is well known for coming from behind, and those in the Olaizola camp must have sensed thunder clouds looming. All was now proceeding according to plan for the man from Ibero; it seemed the weaknesses he had shown in the first plays were now out of his system and that he was set to surge. It seemed unthinkable that he would fail to win another point in the match, but an excellent cross into the left hand wall from Aimar was to prove the opening salvo of a run of the fifteen straight points which took him to his third Manomanista title unopposed.

So what was it that precipitated this extraordinary second phase of the final? Was it the brilliance of Aimar Olaizola or the mental meltdown of his opponent? In reality, the two were intrinsically linked. For Aimar something clicked and every point was gilded with pure class. At 6-7, Irujo was undone by a terrific long serve, at 7-7 he was forced into miscuing an overhead volley, at 8-7 he was left reeling by a gantxo, then a volley into the corner at 9-7. Aimar was nonchalant and relaxed in his excellence, but relentlessly focused. As Irujo sensed fewer and fewer openings, the road of return becoming ever longer, his mistakes multiplied. More in hope than anything, he left a serve on 14-7 which he thought was going long. It did not, and Aimar strode on apace. When another serve passed him by, Irujo could take no more. He wandered, looking resigned, to his chair for a time out and in a sudden moment of rage kicked it to pieces, leaving his hapless botillero Patxi Eugi stranded on his feet. This is the second final in a row against Aimar Olaizola where Irujo has done this. Now, as in the 2011 Cuatro y Medio final, neither Eugi’s counsel nor the letting off of steam made any difference to the outcome of the game. Aimar returned to serve his way to 19-7 before Irujo hit wide twice on the bounce to cede match point. The champion elect wasted no time in tapping the ball with ease into an ocean of space, and as the board switched to 22 he raised his arms to the adulation of the crowd. Irujo knew he had been soundly beaten and congratulated his conqueror with a smile, eschewing his temper reserved for the courtside furniture. Two great champions saluted the crowd, but in 2012 there is little doubt as to who sits on the pinnacle of the sport. Aimar Olaizola, txapeldun.

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-1, 5-1, 5-7, 22-7
Service winners/errors
: Olaizola 3/0, Irujo 1/0
: Olaizola 13/1, Irujo 6/9
Balls hit
: 253
Match time
: 46:49 with 11:01 of actual play
: Asier Olaizola for his brother Aimar, and Patxi Eugi for Irujo

Pelota on ETB, 22nd-24th June: Manomanista Final

This weekend sees the blue riband event of mano a mano pelota with the Manomanista Championship final between the two greatest players of the decade, Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo. There is little one can say about these stars of the game which has not been said a thousand times over, so suffice it to say that this should be a stunning sporting occasion. Irujo was forced to fight to get past Mikel Idoate in his semi, while Olaizola thrashed Oinatz Bengoetxea in his. Bengoetxea subsequently went on to ease past Idoate 22-9 in the third place play off, demonstrating just how impressive Aimar’s mauling of him was. However, anything can happen in a big final and while Olaizola has been the better player over the past year, Irujo is extraordinarily hard to beat when the stakes are at their highest. Don’t miss it.

Friday 22nd June, Urrestilla



Sunday 24th June, Bilbao


Followed by OLAIZOLA II v MARTINEZ DE IRUJO Manomanista Final

To watch, go to http://www.eitb.tv, https://www.eitb.eus/es/television/etb-sat/orhttps://www.eitb.eus/es/deportes/deporte-en-directo/

Olaizola II and Irujo meet in another final

Olaizola II and Irujo meet in another final

Image from Aspepelota under creative commons

Olaizola II annihilates Bengoetxea VI in a whirlwind of dominance

Saturday 9th June, Pamplona


Manomanista Semi-Final

There was an accepted view that this semi-final would be close. Oinatz Bengoetxea claimed to be in perfect condition, and while his form has not scintillated this year, his opponent was in a questionable physical state. Had Aimar Olaizola, fabulous all year and for all of last year too, not been fighting an injury to his right arm, his favouritism would have been far more marked but as it was, this was viewed as an opportunity for Oinatz to get to a major final again, a chance to emulate his championship winning performance of 2008. However, despite his making him ‘instinctively pull back’ every time he went to hit the ball with his right hand, Aimar was utterly brutal and left Oinatz in tatters and fighting for scraps, few of which he could pick up. The star from Goizueta confessed his shock in winning so easily, and if his physical state holds ahead of the final at Bizkaia on 24th June, Juan Martinez de Irujo may begin to suffer sleepless nights.

Aimar rocketed into his stride from the very first strike; it took him a mere twelve minutes to establish an 8-0 lead. He relinquished the serve with a falta thereafter but Bengoetxea was unable to capitalise on the chance he was given and Olaizola powered on to 17-1, an unprecedented level of dominance against a former Manomanista champion. In 36 minutes and only 145 balls, he wrapped up the game 22-5, with ten winners, five service winners and only two errors. Bengoetxea could only muster two winners plus one service winner, and committed six errors. Aimar’s determination and efficiency were breathtaking. He showed no mercy whatsoever in his domination, showing off the full range of his shot play and carving balls with his left as maybe only he can do. Tickets for the final, another classic between Aimar and Irujo, go on sale tomorrow and are expected to sell out in the blink of an eye. It could be a match for the ages.

Manomanista: Irujo wards off determined Idoate challenge for final place

Sunday 3rd June, Eibar


Manomanista Semi-Final

Juan Martinez de Irujo is making something of a speciality of giving his opponents a head start. Before the Astelena crowd had had time to visit the bar and settle into their seats, the four-time champion was 6-0 down against a young talent whose tail was very much up. Irujo threw away the first point by falling low and Idoate took advantage of his own balls by firing off two service winners before Irujo went low again. It was 5-0 when Idoate pulled off an easy drop volley straight from the return of serve and he then showed that he could live with the favourite in a longer rally too, moving Irujo all over the fronton before nailing him with a cross court ball to the corner. Despite the clear ascendency of Idoate at this early stage however, there is always the assumption that Irujo will come hurtling back, almost mocking his rival for ever believing they had a chance to take his scalp. When Idoate miscued a high ball into the wall to allow Irujo onto the scorecard at 6-1, it seemed the inevitable would happen, and indeed Irujo closed his challenger down to 5-6.

However, Idoate was to prove a tougher opponent than many had predicted. He is a player hovering on the edge of the top flight, and even though he ultimately lost here, he has surely thrown his name into the hat for selection in major tournaments over the next couple of years. He prevented Irujo from drawing level by saving a dos paredes and then striking a winning txoko, and proceeded to pull away again, opening his lead up to 11-5 with real authority and total command of the playing area. Irujo was made to look ordinary. Sadly for the underdog and for his vocal fans though, it was not to last. Being left behind twice over was not to Irujo’s taste and he shifted into a gear which Idoate simply could not match. He seized the serve back with a txoko to make it 6-11 and proceeded to take the next ten points. Idoate had previously played Irujo like a puppet on a string but now the man from Ibero returned the favour with interest, dominating points straight from the serve and never allowing Idoate into a position of advantage. Idoate was still very much in the match at 11-12 and had a golden chance to re-establish some momentum when he finally managed to pin Irujo back, but the opportunity was blown with an unforced error. Everything was going Irujo’s way as he raced to 16-11.

Idoate, however, is not one to give in and when Irujo went high on the side wall for 16-12 he gradually worked his way back into contention. A brace of errors from Irujo and he found himself within two at 14-16 and then only one away from parity due to a high ball from Irujo for 16-17. Irujo kept his nose in front every time Idoate came too close however, and extended his advantage to 19-16 with an easy volley and an untouchable ball over Idoate’s head. Again though, Idoate doggedly returned, closing to 18-19 when Irujo completely missed the ball after a close battle at the front. Again though, Idoate blew his big chance, hitting unnecessarily low to gift Irujo the serve again with the finishing line in sight. This time, Idoate had nothing left to give and as Irujo cleaned things up he surely left the fronton ruing what might have been. Not many can beat Irujo at this stage in the Manomanista, but Idoate succeeded in giving him an almighty shock. Irujo proceeds to play either Olaizola II or Bengoetxea VI in the final, but Idoate will surely someday reach these exalted heights.

Scoring sequence: 0-6, 5-6, 5-11, 16-11, 16-12, 16-14, 17-14, 17-16, 19-16, 19-18, 22-18.

Winners/errors: Irujo 14/8 (no service winners), Idoate 10/8 (3 service winners)

Irujo eyes another Manomanista title

Irujo eyes another Manomanista title

Manomanista: Aimar overcomes Retegi test to make the last four

Sunday 27th May, Pamplona


Manomanista Quarter Final

These were nervous times for the supporters of the supreme Aimar Olaizola. His mere participation in this game had been in grave doubt earlier in the week owing to an injury to his right arm, the same problem which probably cost him the title in 2003. He was cleared to play following extensive physical tests but worries persisted as to how he would handle a high octane championship encounter. Under normal circumstances he would have been odds on the defeat Retegi Bi but this situation was anything but ordinary. That Aimar came through in the end must be a considerable relief to him and all his connections, for the route to victory was far from comfortable.

Right from the off it was clear that Aimar was not on top of his game. Before he had had any time to settle his worries, Retegi was leading 4-0 with Aimar defending well but lacking the edge to move from rear-guard action into attack mode. He got himself off the mark at 4-1 when he forced Retegi short after an aerial bombardment and it seemed as if he would come back into it. He closed to 4-3 to establish some sort of status quo but then fell behind again, allowing Retegi into an 11-4 lead. Aimar was physically troubled only by his right arm, but he seemed unable even to get the left going, his classic weapon appearing blunted. Retegi knew his rival was on the ropes and played his part to perfection, doing the basics extremely well and putting enough pressure on him until he offended. Twice he hit wide attempting cross court winners and even when he had the serve, produced a falta. All was not right in the Olaizola camp and twice he retreated to the chair in the hope that his brother Asier may have some words of wisdom. A beautiful low skimming dejedaz winner for 6-11 seemed to imply that he had found his touch but in the next play, tactically as well as technically he was all at sea, wasting a chance at an easy winner directly from serve. Retegi began to believe.

However, injured or not, Aimar Olaizola is a great champion and as such never lies down without a fight. Just as the belief that he would come back at Retegi sooner rather than later started to wane, he found some momentum and with it some form. From 7-12 down he advanced to take the lead for the first time at 14-13 and from then on, despite what had gone on before, a sense of inevitability descended upon Labrit. For the first time, he controlled the space of the fronton and it was Retegi who found himself repeatedly pushed back, desperately trying to escape from the salvo of high balls Aimar sent his way. When that tactic failed to finish him off, he produced an array of winners both into the corner and from left to right and now that he was on song, Retegi was blown out of the water. The underdog did manage a further two points thanks to a txoko on 18-13 and a subsequent service winner, but when he hit wide in the next play it was game over. Aimar sealed his semi-final place with an authoritative left armed swipe, showing all concerned that the real Olaizola II was back.

According to statements released today, Aimar is still in discomfort. The worries will not have been entirely banished by his quarter-final display. He does however have two weeks to rest and prepare for his match in the last four which will take place on 10th June. His opponent there will be the 2008 champion Oinatz Bengoetxea, who although not enjoying the best year of his career looked untouchable in his defeat of Aimar’s older brother in his quarter-final. If Aimar is fit he will be the clear favourite, but if not, Oinatz will make sure to exploit every weakness.

Scoring sequence: 0-4, 3-4, 3-7, 4-7, 4-11, 6-11, 6-12, 9-12, 9-13, 18-13, 18-15, 22-15.
Winners/errors: Olaizola 16/7, Retegi 8/6
Match time: 53:53 with 14:12 of actual play
Balls hit: 275

Manomanista: Irujo progresses thanks to Xala injury at the eleventh hour

Xala finds himself eliminated from the Manomanista Championship without so much as hitting a ball in anger. The planned match between he and Juan Martinez de Irujo, scheduled for Saturday at Bizkaia, failed to take place as the defending champion succumbed to acute low back pain on Friday night. The problem became worse during a workout on the fronton on Saturday morning. This misfortune means that Irujo progresses to the semi-finals, where he will meet Mikel Idoate, unimpeded. Xala has not had a good time of late. On the heels of losing the Pairs final came the flu which forced the postponement of this match for the first time. However, this new ailment came too late for any further delay to the match, and Xala’s title defence is over before it started.

Aimar Olaizola’s Manomanista campaign in severe doubt

Potential bad news both for Asegarce and for the Manomanista Championship as a whole emerged this morning as it was revealed that Aimar Olaizola’s injury problems are of a potentially severe nature. Olaizola, the tournament favourite, is scheduled to enter the competition in Pamplona on Sunday against Retegi Bi but he is now in doubt due to a swelling in his right triceps which has extended to the latissimus dorsi muscle in his back. This is the same injury which afflicted him in the 2003 final, which he lost to Patxi Ruiz and which subsequently saw him out of action for six months. The signs are therefore not promising.

He was supposed to play his quarter final this past weekend but requested a postponement. He underwent a test on the fronton on Friday but he had to stop after only a few minutes. A scan will be performed in Vitoria today and depending on the extent of the injury as revealed by that he may test his shape again tomorrow. The worry is that if he plays at the weekend he may, like in 2003, pay the price with a lengthy period on the sidelines. We can only watch and wait.

Source: El Correo

Aimar: doubtful

Aimar: doubtful

Idoate ends comeback from Asier Olaizola to take semi final berth

Saturday 19th May, Pamplona


Mikel Idoate has made the Manomanista semi finals for the second year running with a tight win over Asier Olaizola at Labrit. The young forward looked to have matters very much under control, having surged to a 14-5 lead, but with the help of six service winners and a powerful right hand, Asier managed to close his deficit to 15-16. However, Idoate had the strength to move forward again, restoring a four point gap at 20-16. Olaizola closed to 18-20 and with the serve his, it appeared as if his experience might yet bring him to the finishing line. However, it was not to be as Idoate closed him out to take his place in the last four, where he will meet either Martinez de Irujo or defending champion Xala.

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-9, 5-14, 8-16, 15-16, 16-20, 18-20, 18-22

A cool head saw Idoate through

A cool head saw Idoate through

Image: mine