Sunday 8th May, Eibar
XALA beat RETEGI BI 22-12
Some thought Julen Retegi might cause problems for Yves Salaberry on Sunday night, after his excellent performance against Urrutikoetxea the week before. However, while Retegi started with a flourish and showed great mettle, Xala proved beyond all doubt that he was in a different class. The classy left hander showed all the easy class that he displayed in the Pairs Championship, brushing his younger rival aside with a nonchalant sweep of the hand, calm, controlled and quietly brutal.
Retegi started the better of the pair, winning the first two points with tactical nouse and superb finishing. In the third, Xala fell short after a salvo of long shots from Retegi. However, Xala, completely relaxed, began to chip away at the three point deficit. He gifted Retegi another point by going wide after an attritional point, but with four textbook plays, wrenched the initiative firmly away. This swing in fortune was related in large part to his serve, which began to fire on all cylinders, but he also reminded his opponent and his viewers of the power of his left arm, going crosscourt with devastating power. Retegi pinned him back to 6-8 with a marvellous effort, putting the ball over Xala’s head having raced and dived from the back to reach it at all, but throughout this mid period of the game, Xala won points in batches, while his opponent stole the occasional one here and there. The power of Xala’s serve was again key, and Retegi’s inability to halt it made him seethe visibly with frustration.
Uncharacteristically, Xala served a falta to gift his serve away at 7-12, and Retegi responded with two excellent deliveries of his own, but with an advantage of only three, he slid up a gear, moving from 12-9 to 17-9 with a barrage of drops and volleys. He miscued one close to the side wall at allow Retegi his tenth point, and Retegi thought he had him again in the next rally, until he pulled a stunning crosscourt swipe out of nowhere, while pinned unceremoniously against the wall. There was no doubting the future direction of the game, as Retegi appeared a broken man. He managed two further points thanks to another Xala falta, and a dos paredes gone wrong, but Xala took no time to finish him off, with a ball over his head and a skimming canon ball past his nose. Xala proceeds to the semi finals, where he will play Idoate.
Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-4, 2-4, 2-5, 8-5, 8-6, 12-6, 12-9, 17-9, 17-10, 20-10, 20-12, 22-12.
Winners: Xala 16, Retegi Bi 6
Errors: Xala 3, Retegi Bi 2
Service winners: Xala 4, Retegi Bi 1
Service errors: Xala 2, Retegi Bi 0
Balls hit: 230
Match time: 47.10 minutes, with 10.32 minutes of actual play
Xala: no sweat
In the other quarter final to be played this weekend, IDOATE beat OLAIZOLA I 22-8 (Saturday, Pamplona). The young pretender completely outclassed Asier Olaizola, who was playing his first match after returning from a knee injury sustained during the Pairs Championship. Olaizola was expected to be lacking match fitness, but he never managed to gain a foothold in the game, and the young pretender trumped him in every aspect of the game. His reward is a semi final against Xala.
The remaining quarter finals will be played this coming weekend, with Martinez de Irujo playing Olaizola II (14th, Bilbao) and Bengoetxea VI taking on Patxi Ruiz (15th, Pamplona).
In the Promocion Championship quarter finals, Jaunarena beat Lemuno 22-20 and Merino I beat Argote 22-17. The two winners will play each other in the semi finals on the 22nd.
Image from Noticias de Gipuzkoa by Zigor Alkorta