Tag Archives: Mendizabal II

Presenting the Finalists: Berasaluze II and Albisu

Pablo Berasaluze Zabala was born in 1977 in Berriz, a town of around 5000 inhabitants nestled between Durango and Zaldibar in Bizkaia. He made his professional debut in 1998 at the age of 20, at the Municipal Fronton of Bergara, after a successful amateur career which saw him take the Liga Vasca de Clubes title in 1994 and the Torneo El Diario Vasco pairs title in 1997. Although he has been a regular feature in the top flight of pelota for many years, Berasaluze has yet to win a major championship title. His Pairs Championship record is not a stellar one; he has reached the semi-finals on only two occasions in seven attempts, but the second of these appearances came last year with Albisu, his partner this time round. On that occasion they won only one of their semis in what was essentially a dead rubber against Titin III and Zabaleta (the latter replacing Merino II for the eventual champions). This year they have fought to the death and come through against all the odds, testament to the fighting spirit for which Berasaluze is famous. He plays with commitment and extraordinary verve, his small stature combined with his determination reminding one of a terrier at work. A terrific player who has bloomed late in his career, Berasaluze surely deserves at least one major championship txapela to show for his efforts and in the year when he changed his playing name from Berasaluze VIII to Berasaluze II in honour of his late father, a win on Sunday would be a fitting tribute.

Pairs record
2003 with Beloki, group stages
2004 with Zearra, group stages
2005 with Patxi Ruiz, group stages
2009 with Zearra, semi-finals
2010 with Begino, group stages
2011 with Apraiz, group stages
2012 with Albisu, semi-finals

Previous professional titles

Jon Ander Albisu is, at the age of 22, a pelotari just coming into his own. Regarded since the start of his career as a huge talent who could not find consistency, this tournament has represented a watershed; his playing has at times been erratic but at times inspired and coupled with the dynamism of Berasaluze his determination has seen him through. Albisu was born in Ataun, in the Goierri region of Gipuzkoa. He has an impressive amateur palmares which includes the Torneo del Antiguo pairs title in 2008, the championship of Euskadi individual titles in 2009 and 2010 and the GRAVN individual crown in 2010. These showings were enough to merit a contract with Asegarce, with whom he made his debut in July 2010 in Tolosa. A year later he took his only professional title to date, winning the Promocion Pairs Championship with Olaetxea, beating Gorka and Merino I in the final. In 2012 he was promoted to the top tier tournament, making the semi-finals with current partner Berasaluze. Whatever happens on Sunday, the 2013 Pairs final will be a defining moment in Albisu’s career, the moment he moved from promising young player to genuine title contender. He has shown a great deal of grit in this championship, absorbing much criticism in the press to come good when it matters. He will be scrutinised more than anyone else, for Asegarce’s victory bid rests on which Albisu takes to the fronton, the confident new star or the inconsistent youngster.

Pairs record
2012 with Berasaluze II, semi-finals

Previous professional titles
2011 Promocion Pairs Championship, with Olaetxea

Photos: mine

A Pelotari’s Farewell: Saying Goodbye to Oier Zearra in Galdakao

I was in Galdakao on Saturday night for the farewell match of local pelotari Oier Zearra, who has retired after fourteen years as a professional. The 34 year old made his debut in Eibar in 1997 and his greatest achievement came in 2006 when he finished as runner up in the Pairs Championship alongside Olaizola II. In addition, he triumphed in the second tier Pairs and second tier Manomanista, both in 1998.

Oier Zearra’s swansong coincided with Galdakao’s fiesta and the streets of the Bizkaian town were awash with people, many bedecked in local dress, celebrating under ikurriña bunting. I had arrived by train directly from Durango, to which I had walked from the summit of the Urkiola climb having watched the Vuelta a España pass through a sea of orange. The party atmosphere I had witnessed on the mountain appeared set to continue into the night. Almost as soon as I entered the main street from the station, I was passed by groups of people wearing stickers which bore Zearra’s portrait; it seemed the whole community had pulled together to celebrate the career of their famous son, while also still revelling in the glow of fellow local Igor Antón’s Vuelta triumph the previous day.

The jubilant atmosphere extended from the street into the fronton, which was nigh on sold out for the big game. I had secured my ticket in the standing section of the balcony by calling past the box office two days before, desperate not to miss out. As the first match got underway there were still some empty seats below me but as the start of the second  drew closer, the throng of people on the street migrated to their positions for the big event, with the strains of a traditional band, who were perhaps somewhat incongruously playing Yellow Submarine, growing louder. The curtain raiser appeared as if it would expire with the whimper of a routine win for Olaetxea and Iza, but the crowd was whipped into fervour by a near miraculous comeback from Urrutikoetxea, only for he and Ibai Zabala to fall three points shy of victory. But this was a mere amuse bouche and a respectful and almost religious hush descended as Oier Zearra took to the fronton, a warrior about to play his last.

Zearra stood alone, facing his friends, family and fellow citizens, backed by his sporting colleagues. Two dancers, clad in white with traditional red belts faced him and bowed. Accompanied by a single musician in command of both a txistu and a drum, they performed for his honour, a touchingly intimate tribute in the midst of something far larger. There followed a procession of gifts, presented one by one, culminating in the granting of that most evocative Basque prize, the txapela. From the mass of players, well-wishers, and young boys dreaming that someday such honours might be afforded to them, stepped a lone singer. His haunting melody made the spine shiver, and his swirling notes rose and met with the rafters as if another chapter in the history of the sport was being soaked up by their all-seeing beams before our very eyes.

As the ceremony ended and its various characters left the playing area to the slap of ball on stone, we awoke to the reality that Zearra had one more war to wage. He took to the fronton alongside the great Aimar Olaizola, with whom he had journeyed to the Pairs final in 2006, the best possible partner to assist him to a fitting final victory. In their way stood Pablo Berasaluze and Oier Mendizabal, in the unenviable position of potential party wreckers, knowing they must play their match despite the baying crowd’s fervent support of their retiring friend. In the emotion of the circumstances one might have forgiven Zearra for blowing it, but he and Olaizola were a steady and serene ship, long delivery feeding winners at the frontis. They held their nerve despite the typically dogged efforts of Berasaluze, who grew in stature and venom but could not stand in the way of a 22-20 win at the last. We applauded Zearra as he stood alone and applauded us, before leaving the fronton behind, we to the continuing fiesta, Zearra to the next chapter of his life.

 All the photographs are mine

Post holiday catch-up! Masters, Pairs, and Zubieta’s knee

Firstly, apologies; I’ve been in Belgium ever since Christmas with no chance to watch pelota, let alone write about it, and a lot has happened in that time. It’s time to redress the blogging silence!

Masters Kutxa Final, 25th December, Pamplona


It took Oinatz Bengoetxea less than half an hour to destroy Juan Martinez de Irujo, and land the 12,000 Euro cheque as Masters champion. The Leitzarra subjected Irujo to a taste of his own medicine, dominating with his serve and volleying with aplomb on his way to a 22-8 victory. Irujo started as the hot favourite, and won the first four points, but from 1-5 down there was little stopping his opponent, who added a further nine points without reply.  Irujo fought back to 8-10 but Bengoetxea surged again, playing at a furious pace, and showing the very human side of the Manomanista champion. Diario Vasco

Oinatz on song

Oinatz on song

Lift of for the 2011 Pairs Championship

The pelota year begins with the Pairs, an epic contest which runs from early January until April 17th. Each empresa enters four combinations, and each pair plays every other pair twice, the top four advancing to the semi finals, which are also played as a round robin. The 2010 champions are Xala and Aitor Zubieta, but owing to his serious knee injury, the latter will miss the chance to defend his title. Xala plays instead with Abel Barriola, in a combination which oozes class. The most surprising pairing is surely that of Irujo and David Merino, the 20 year old first year pro last seen on the receiving end of a thumping at the hands of Idoate in the second tier Cuatro y Medio final. Merino is an exciting talent, but his promotion to the top flight to partner the number one player must surely raise eyebrows. Is it too much too soon for the man from Rioja? Time will tell. His call up means no repeat performance for Mikel Beroiz, who partnered Irujo last year. Another notable pairing is that of Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz, who lit up the summer festivals in 2010. Ruiz has experienced resurgence in past months and has his chance with a partner who could accompany him deep into the spring. Aimar Olaizola, who won the 2009 title, is back for more, but his then partner Oier Mendizabal is left out, making way in the elite eight for Alexis Apraiz, who has clearly been groomed for this by Asegarce. The full line-up is as follows:

For Asegarce: Olaizola II – Begino, Bengoetxea VI – Patxi Ruiz, Olaizola I – Beloki, Berasaluze VIII – Apraiz

For Aspe: Xala – Barriola, Martinez de Irujo – Merino II, Gonzalez – Laskurain, Titin III – Pascual

The championship commenced last weekend with the first rotation of matches, and the results were as follows:


In as far as we can glean anything from the first week of matches, it seems the Irujo – Merino experiment may not be working. The pair was thrashed by the tested combination of Bengoetxea and Ruiz, and by all accounts looked all at sea. They may of course settle, but the omens are not good. Xala and Barriola did all that was expected of them and more, putting Asier Olaizola and Beloki to the sword with clinical efficiency, and confirming their status as likely favourites. The closeness of the other two matches suggests absorbing times ahead. For a full fixture list, see Asegarce’s website. I will post broadcast schedules for this weekend in due course.

Barriola and Xala made a storming start

Barriola and Xala made a storming start

 Aitor Zubieta goes under the knife

As his colleagues got down to business in the championship he won last year, Aitor Zubieta was preparing for surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament, acquired in his Masters semi final against Bengoetxea. The operation took place yesterday at the Clínica Ubarmin near Pamplona, and was deemed a success by surgeons. The procedure lasted for a hour and a half, and carries a recovery time of around six months.

Zubieta: the long road back

Zubieta: the long road back

Images: Bengoetxa, Pilotazale; Barriola/Xala, Gara (Imanol OTEGI/ARGAZKI PRESS); Zubieta, Noticias de Navarra (Inaki Porto)

San Sebastian: Pablito edges Irujo in close opener

Friday 20th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian

Last night’s opening match at Atano III was all about experience versus experimentation. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino know each other inside out; each plays with various partners throughout the year but they more often than not converge at the major tournaments, and have joined forces in the past two Pairs Championships. Conversely, it was something of a novelty for Martinez de Irujo to find himself paired with Oier Mendizabal. Not only do they hail from different empresas, but Mendizabal is more used to partnering Irujo’s erstwhile greatest rival, Aimar Olaizola, with whom he won the Pairs title in 2008. The game which ensued was a close one, with frequent situations of deadlock, but in the end perhaps the greater empathy of the regular pair showed, and granted them the required edge.

Pablo and Aritz began the brighter of the couples. Mendizabal went high after a long, steady opening point, and Pablo confirmed the initial advantage with a txoko, wrong footing Irujo expertly. Irujo showed that he was not to be outcome by copying Pablo’s trick in the next point, but another Mendizabal error restored the two-point advantage. Irujo pulled out a ganxto, but then committed three errors in a row, going low, wide, and fluffing another gantxo entirely, to give the blue pair a decided spring in their step. An error born out of a moment of slight confusion by Begino and a stunning rebote from Irujo closed the reds’ deficit to two at 4-6, but the blues surged ahead again. Oier squandered a point in which his pair did everything right, going wide as he searched for space to clinch it, and in the next play he went low from the back of the court. The local boy looked classy at times under the high ball, and retrieved some stunning long shots excellently, but the errors began to blot his copybook. Pablo sealed a 9-4 lead with a stinging cross court airez, and it looked to all the world as if he and Begino were in absolute control.

However, Irujo and Mendizabal, gelling better than they had, slowly worked themselves back into the match, taking the next four points. Pablo followed his superb winner in the previous play with a miscued txoko in the next, and a service winner from Irujo followed by an error from Begino brought them to within a point. Pablo and Aritz pulled two back to steady the ship, but their opponents came again, Irujo now asserting his class to draw his pair level for the first time at 11-11. In the next passage of play, the couples could not be split, finding themselves tied at 12, 13 and 14 apiece, Irujo and Mendizabal taking the lead for the first and only time at 14-13.

Somebody needed to break the stalemate, and it was Pablo who took the helm. Both he and Irujo produced play from the top drawer at various points throughout the game, but it was Pablo’s greater potency, and perhaps his unbreakable will in this latter passage of play which proved the game breaker. His pair, finding themselves behind, reacted by taking seven of the next eight points, six of them winners for the irrepressible Berasaluze. Two virtuosic forward scraps went the way of the man from Berriz, before an unreturnable serve, a gantxo and two beautiful airez winners put him and Begino on the verge of victory at 20-15. Irujo found himself outmanoeuvred and out hit, attacking an empty chair in fury. There was a hint of a comeback from Irujo and Mendizabal, helped by two Begino errors and a flash of tactical brilliance from the Aspe forward, but Pablo fought tooth and nail to match point before sealing it with a serve.

The pairs were for the most part extremely evenly matched but in the final analysis the right side won. Begino and Mendizabal were much of a muchness in their defensive roles, at times classy but prone to error. The difference came in the forward battle, where Berasaluze got the better of the Manomanista champion, turning in twelve winners to Irujo’s nine. He also made half the number of mistakes of his illustrious rival. The winning pair was also, unsurprisingly, the better oiled partnership, more a single unit than a duo of talented individuals. They will now proceed to play Xala and Apraiz on Tuesday, for a place in the final.

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-6, 4-6, 4-9, 8-9, 8-11, 11-11, 11-12, 12-12, 12-13, 13-13, 14-13, 14-14, 14-17, 15-17, 15-20, 18-20, 18-22.

Winners: Berasaluze VIII 12, Irujo 9, Begino 0, Mendizabal II 2

Errors: Berasaluze VIII 2, Irujo, 4, Begino 5, Mendizabal II 6

Balls played: 438

Total match time: 1:01.49

Playing time: 20.44

Begino (left) and Berasaluze are well acquainted

Begino (left) and Berasaluze are well acquainted

Image from: navarrasport.com

Pelota on ETB-Sat, 20th/22nd August: San Sebastian and Oteiza

The Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian begins tonight in the famous Gipuzkoan city, with an interesting encounter, featuring Juan Martinez de Irujo of Aspe playing with Oier Mendizabal of Asegarce. Mendizabal, Pairs Champion in 2008, is more used to playing alongside Irujo’s great rival Aimar Olaizola, currently injured, and it will be fascinating to see him work with the Manomanista Champion, who pipped him and Aimar to the Pairs title in 2009. Their opponents, who are well used to each other, are regular partners Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino. This is effectively a quarter final match, used to decide the semi final opponents of Xala and Apraiz on Tuesday. The other semi, which takes place on Monday, pits Zubieta and Titin against Bengoetxea VI and Barriola.

Friday 20th August, Donostia-San Sebastian



Sunday 22nd August, Oteiza



To watch, go to https://www.eitb.eus/television/etb-sat/en-directo/

Aspe pelotaris sweep the board

The final week of the Pairs Quarter Finals sees Asegarce down and out as none of their four couples qualify

The seemingly endless, and endlessly fascinating, Pairs Championship quarter finals came to an end this week as the semi final berths were allocated to the top four partnerships out of the starting total of eight. Two of the matches which took place over the weekend were dead rubbers, meaning that all eyes were on the encounters in Eibar and Covaleda, where Olaizola II-Mendizabal II, Berasaluze VIII-Begino, and Gonzalez-Laskurain fought for the one remaining place in the last four. We take a look below at how things played out.

On Friday in Covaleda, the slim hopes of Berasaluze VIII and Begino were dashed as they were beaten 22-10 by Titin III and Pascual. In order to progress, the Asegarce pair needed a big win, and then would have had to wait on the result of Sunday’s game in Eibar. In reality though, their hope proved a pipe dream as the Aspe pair took them apart. The atmosphere was electric but the crowd must have felt somewhat let down by the level of the match. With qualification assured, Titin and Pascual came out of the dressing room in relaxed mood and with a license to take risks. Their opponents realised the gravity of their situation and did not rise to the occasion, looking tense and increasingly desperate. There was no way back from a 6-0 deficit, and the Aspe lead was never cut to fewer than four points. The form of Berasaluze and Begino has been a grave disappointment throughout the championship. Although they have they well at times, they have appeared a shadow of the pair who finished top of the quarter final table last year. In contrast, Titin and Pascual have played a blinder and may be the pair to lay down the gauntlet to Irujo and Beroiz in the last four.

In the other crucial match, in Eibar on Sunday, Gonzalez and Laskurain beat Olaizola II and Mendizabal II 22-21. This was an unbearably tense affair, with the final place in the last four going to the winner, and it came down to the very last point of a gripping evening. When an error by Mendizabal gifted the prize to Gonzalez and Laskurain, the huge crowd erupted in appreciation for a match which had lived up to all expectations, despite the errors induced by nerves from all parties. The game was characterised by a near death defying comeback by Aimar and Oier, who at one point found themselves 5-15 adrift. Aimar has anointed himself the comeback kid over the past few weeks but this time it was too little too late for the 2008 winners and 2009 runners up. Their record in this championship of late has been an impressive one but this year they have failed to play as a unit. Aimar, always a formidable opponent, has been among the three best pelotaris in the competition but Oier has been erratic and has ranked as the worst of the players who have seen all the quarter final matches through. While there was heartbreak for them, Gonzalez and Laskurain leapt in jubilation. Both are protagonists who could fairly be described as ‘intense’ on the fronton, which made their public outburst of delight seem all the more joyous. Laskurain in particular, has had a splendid tournament thus far and will provide the solid rock in defence needed by his partner as the competition hots up.

In the first of the dead rubbers, table toppers Irujo and Beroiz beat Bengoetxea VI and Otxandorena 22-13 in Pamplona. This was something of a formality for the all conquering pair, who were in a different class to their beleaguered rivals. It is one of the major disappointments of this year’s championship that Oinatz Bengoetxea has failed to light up the stage as he can. The former Manomanista Champion is usually a terrier of the fronton, ferocious in defence and pugnacious in attack, but in recent weeks he has been lacklustre and appeared inhibited by doubt. His supporters, as well as many neutrals, will hope he regains his magic in time for this year’s edition of the Manomanista. He has surely been upset by the loss to injury of Beloki early in the tournament, for Otxandorena has failed to fill the experienced campaigner’s considerable void. Nothing has bothered Irujo and Beroiz however. Juan has marched on in his own inimitable way, the best player of the quarter finals, and Beroiz has defied his age and greenness in the first major tournament of his short career. They are clearly the pair to beat.

Meanwhile in Tolosa, Saralegi and Apraiz managed a 22-17 win over Xala and Arruti. The eventual winners were playing for pride only and they can hold their heads up high as they bid farewell to the competition. They were never meant to be in the fray in the first place, as they form the couple which began as Olaizola I-Patxi Ruiz, who both fell to injury, the latter in somewhat acrimonious circumstances. Their opponents had their semi final berth in the bag, and Asier Arruti replaced the solid but injured Aitor Zubieta for this coda to their quarter final campaign. Xala and Zubieta will head to the last four with confidence, having gelled as an extremely cohesive and efficient unit since the start of January.

Gonzalez and partner Laskurain made it through by the skin of their teeth

Gonzalez and partner Laskurain made it through by the skin of their teeth

The recriminations will continue throughout the coming weeks at Asegarce for despite having teams on paper every bit as strong as those from the rival empresa, their involvement in the championship is over. While Olaizola II played well, as did others at times, key components have failed. Mendizabal II is the most obvious weak link, as with greater form from him, his pair would have made the last four. Injuries have played their part, especially so in the case of Bengoetxea and Beloki’s well established partnership, but the Olaizola I-Patxi Ruiz pairing was not a happy one from the word go. Berasaluze and Begino lacked their usual consistency. All that remains now is for the Asegarce players and staff to sit back and watch their rivals play for the spoils, while hoping for a more positive Manomanista campaign.

For a ranking of the individual players in the Quarter Final stage, see here.

The semi finals commence on Saturday in Pamplona, where Irujo-Beroiz take on Gonzalez-Laskurain. On Sunday, Titin-Pascual play Xala-Zubieta in Logrono. I will publish times and broadcast information later in the week.

Image from: Aspe

Xala-Zubieta qualify but Olaizola II-Mendizabal II must try again

Apologies for these rather scanty reports; it’s been a very hectic week!

At Eibar on Sunday 21st February, MARTINEZ DE IRUJO-BEROIZ posted their sixth win of the competition, beating OLAIZOLA II-MENDIZABAL II 22-20. Astelena was packed to the rafters with noisy fans, eager to witness another tense encounter between these two great pairs. In terms of the quality of the play alone, many may have left disappointed, for the match was error strewn, but the occasion more than made up for this shortcoming. Although the final scoreline was tight, the Aspe pair held the lead for almost the whole match, with the exception of the point at which they were headed 19-20. The victors dominated the game almost throughout, although Olaizola turned in a healthy run of winners to pose some challenge. Mendizabal, though, has proved the weak link in the Aseagrce partnership and there were again too many mistakes from him. Irujo and Beroiz are of course safely in the semi finals. Olaizola and Mendizabal must beat Gonzalez and Laskurain in the final rotation of matches if they are to join them.

On Monday 22nd February, XALA-ZUBIETA booked their place in the semi finals with a win over BERASALUZE VIII-BEGINO in Tolosa. Thanks largely to the excellent crosscourt and volleying game of Xala and the errors of Begino, the Aspe pair surged ahead 1-7 early on. Their opponents closed in to 8-11 in an extremely tight scrap where each point was contested tooth and nail. However, several mistakes coupled with the greater efficiency of Xala and Zubieta put the game out of their reach. Berasaluze, as usual, fought gamely, but Begino was outplayed by Zubieta. 10-14 became 10-17, and then 12-21, and the game was up for the Asegarce combination, who have seldom played to their potential in this competition.

Source: Aspe, here and here.

Aitor Zubieta in control

Aitor Zubieta in control

Image from: Noticias de Alava

Xala and Zubieta win pulsating match at Beotibar

Monday 15th February, Tolosa


Pairs Championship

Beotobar was packed to the rafters on Monday for this tantalising encounter, with around two hundred turned away at the door. The crowd in Tolosa has never been as passionate or as partisan as that at Pamplona or Logrono, but this particular match boasted an atmosphere to rival any, and the ticketholders witnessed one of the best games of the championship so far.

Aimar and Oier had, prior to this game, been getting better and better, with the former in particular hitting the starry heights with consistency. However, they were brought back down to earth with a bump here by the pair which has now beaten them twice. This was a fourth straight victory for Yves Salaberry and Aitor Zubieta, who have turned their fortune on its head, having lost their first two matches. Xala has been a little out of form of late, relying on the play of Zubieta to hold things together, but here he was emphatically back to his best. He managed five gantxos, including three consecutively, and defended impressively against the wall. The Aspe pair bombed Mendizabal throughout and his inability to break loose from this deadlock put extra pressure on Olaizola. The forward from Goizueta, while not at his brilliant best, played a solid game, but the dominance of his opposing pair was too great. He also, unfortunately for him, blotted his copybook by missing the final two balls.

Both sides are still in ranked in the top four and could thus both progress to the semi finals, but this point for Xala and Zubieta may prove crucial. With a seminal game against Irujo and Beroiz still to come, last year’s runners up may have their work cut out.

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-8, 11-8, 11-10, 12-10, 12-12, 14-12, 14-13, 16-13, 16-17, 18-17, 18-22

Source: Diario Vasco

Super Aimar orchestrates win at Labrit

Monday 8th February, Pamplona


Pairs Championship

When the great Navarrese forward Aimar Olaizola is on song he is an intractable, lethal force of nature. His battle with Titin in Pamplona on Monday was anticipated as an evenly matched and exciting duel, given the recent fiery nature of Titin’s play, but in reality Aimar was peerless. The game was intriguingly poised at 9-9, with neither pair having proved able to create a gap. Both defenders played a solid game in this opening period and Olaizola found himself frustratingly lacking in chances to attack. However, when Titin hit low to give the Asegarce duo at 10-9 lead, Aimar served with his choice of balls and seized eight unanswered points from a shell shocked Titin and Pascual, for whom there was no way back. El Correo describes Aimar as having ‘legs of steel; strengthened by years spent hunting in the mountains around Goizueta, but in this mood he is also possessed of a will of steel, suffering nobody to stand in the way of his aggression. Titin, if he must go down, always does so fighting and he managed to pull back four points to lessen the blow of the loss, but it was too little too late.

Olaizola finished with twelve winners and two service winners, including two excellent rebotes and some violent gantxos. Oier Mendizabal also had an excellent game and his form, happily for he and Olaizola, seems to be building with each game. Titin stood up to Olaizola with merit but found himself powerless to halt him. Of the four, only Pascual played with inconsistency. This was the third win for Aimar and Oier, who appear to have hit a rich vein of form with Aimar arguably the player of the week for the second week in a row. They look like a good bet for the semi finals, and play like this could truly put the cat among the pigeons for all their rivals.

Scoring sequence: 1-1, 5-3, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 9-17, 10-20, 12-21, 16-22

Sources: El correo, Gara via Aspe

Aimar Olaizola lets one fly

Aimar Olaizola lets one fly

Image from: Noticias de Gipuzkoa

Pairs Championsip Round-up: Week 4

I have already reported on Friday’s match (see below); here we take a look at the other three matches from week four of the championship.

Saturday 30th January, Pamplona 


Aimar Olaizola pulled off the performance of the week in Labrit to annihilate Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain. The forward from Goizueta treated a full house to an exhibition match of poise and power, unleashing a torrent of crosscourt winners from his brutal left arm. The Asegarce pair, champions two years ago and runners up last year, needed a win here to avoid a slide down the standings, and Olaizola left nothing to chance, seizing the initiative right from the start; the score was 11-2 within fifteen minutes of play. Gonzalez had no answer to his rampant opponent and played at a level well below his best. Laskurain could do little but try and contain his opponents, but with a resurgent Oier Mendizabal alongside him, he struggled even to do that. Mendizabal played badly last week but was a changed man here, showing strength, accuracy and tactical astuteness. The night though, belonged to Olaizola who left with eleven winners against his name to Gonzalez’ one. The statistics tell the story.

Scoring sequence: 7-0, 7-2, 11-3, 12-5, 14-7, 19-8, 20-9, 22-9

Sunday 31st January, Eibar


Juan Martinez de Irujo and Mikel Beroiz remain unbeaten in the championship after an intense encounter at Astelena. The Aspe duo, which mixes winning experience with supreme young talent, fell behind initially but after going ahead at 8-7 was never again headed. Oinatz Bengoetxea and Inaki Otxandorena stuck manfully to the task and scrapped until the bitter end, but could not close the gap, despite some sterling defence. Beroiz was the standout player of the encounter, showing a maturity which belies his twenty years. Irujo for his part played some excellent points, but like Bengoetxea, also committed errors.The losers are now in deep trouble with one point from four games, and will need determination and luck in abundance to reach the semi finals.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-3, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 5-7, 10-7, 10-8, 15-8, 15-11, 16-11, 16-14, 19-14, 19-15, 20-16, 21-18, 22-18.

Monday 1st February, Tolosa


Yves Salaberry and Aitor Zubieta kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the semi finals with their second win in four matches. Both couples understood the need for a result at this crucial point in the competition where the contenders begin to sort themselves from the also-rans, and the tension this created was evident in the game. Asier Olaizola played with vigour but also made costly errors, and was punished by Xala’s volleying. Alexis Apraiz, replacing the injured Patxi Ruiz, made an solid and promising debut in defence but his efforts were insufficient to bring the Asegarce pair their desired win. They must now fight for all their worth to escape elimination. (source: Asegarce)

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-2, 8-2, 8-7, 12-7, 12-12, 13-12, 13-13, 14-13, 14-14, 14-16, 16-16, 16-17, 17-17, 17-20, 18-20, 18-22.

For the full standings after the fourth week of matches, visit the Asegarce homepage and click on the box in the bottom right hand quarter.

Player of the week, Aimar Olaizola

Player of the week, Aimar Olaizola

Image from: Astore