Saturday 26th March, Pamplona
OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO beat GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN 22-19
Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino can breathe a sigh of relief, after remaining in the competition by the skin of their teeth. Defeat here would have meant almost certain elimination, and while they would have liked a greater points difference to aid their way to the final, they will take what they got have grateful hearts, for Gonzalez and Laskurain should have won this match. Olaizola and Begino knew the gravity of this encounter, and perhaps as a result of this, were inconsistent and tight in their play, even Olaizola, known for being cold and calculating of nature on the fronton. The Goizuetarra made an uncharacteristic number of errors, five in all, but his ten winners saved his skin in the end. Laskurain did not have to work hard to put Begino under pressure, making him look decidedly uncomfortable as time and again he was forced to extricate the ball from the left hand wall.
Gonzalez and Laskurain maintained an advantage for the majority of the match, and although their gap over their rivals was never large, it seemed increasingly unbridgeable. Initially they went down 0-4, and all appeared rosy in the Asegarce garden, but as the tension crept in, they stormed ahead, 9-5 and 12-8. Their rivals doggedly closed the gap to a point at 14-15 however, and from there on, finally found their game. Aimar’s pace began to make Gonzalez suffer, and Begino rediscovered the strong, metronomic striking style to which we have become accustomed. 14-16 became 19-16. Controversy was to follow, which threatened to derail the Asegarce revival, when Aimar disputed a call from a judge. When his claim was rejected, Gonzalez and Laskurain were back in it, at 18-19. However, with their eyes on the prize, Olaizola and Begino would not be denied, and they held on to win by two points.
Victory for the pre-match favourites was justified, just about. They wobbled in the early exchanges, but like all great players, pulled through when the going got tough. There are still gargantuan challenges ahead though, as they must beat Xala and Barriola next weekend, or hope that Gonzalez and Laskruain beat Irujo and Merino II, in which case it would come down to points difference.
Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-5, 5-5, 5-9, 8-9, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 11-3, 11-14, 12-14, 12-15, 14-15, 14-16, 19-16, 19-18, 21-18, 21-19, 22-19.
Service winners: Olaizola 2, Gonzalez 2
Service faults: Olaizola 0, Gonzalez 1
Winners: Olaizola 10, Begino 3, Gonzalez 4, Laskurain 2
Errors: Olaizola 5, Begino 4, Gonzalez 4, Laskurain 2
Match time: 69:47 with 29:32 actual playing time.
Image from El Correo, source Diario Vasco