Tag Archives: Pelota Mano

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

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

Mikel Idoate signs with Asegarce

Asegarce yesterday announced the signing of Mikel Idoate from Aspe for two years. He follows in the footsteps of Mikel Beroiz and Ladis Galarza who have both left Aspe for the Bilbao company in recent times. The move is likely fuelled the abundance of talent in the forwards department at Aspe, counterbalanced by the relative lack of it at Asegarce. Idoate has fallen into the gap between top tier pairs selection and the promocion tournaments, and is increasingly losing out to new talents like Ezkurdia and Jaunarena who are being pushed into the limelight. He is too good to be allowed to fall by the wayside. This move should revitalise the career of the 23 year old from Txantrea and afford him plentiful opportunities in the top flight. Asegarce have struggled for two or three years for a fourth elite forward to sit alongside Aimar Olaizoola, Bengoetxea VI and Berasaluze II. Asier Olaizola has been on the wane for a while and Iker Arretxe has failed to rise to the task on too many occasions. Idoate gives them new young blood and a talent bursting to show itself. He will play his first match for his new empresa on Saturday in Pamplona, where he is paired with Apraiz against Urrutikoetxea and Begino.

Mano results roundup: Ipar Kutxa Final and Cecilio's debut

Ipar Kutxa Final

The Ipar Kutxa Tournament is a doubles competition involving some of the best pelotaris not entered, or no longer involved, in the Manomanista Championship. Each empresa entered two pairs as follows:

For Asegarce: Berasaluze VIII – Begino and Olaizola I – Mendizabal II
For Aspe: Gonzalez – Laskurain and Titin III – Pascual

In the first semi final, which took place in Villamediana de Iregua on 16th May, Asier Olaizola, a losing Manomanista quarter finalist, and Oier Mendizabal defeated Titin III and Pascual 22-15. The second was a tight affair which saw the victors escape the clutches of their opponents only in the dying points of the game. Those victors were Sebastian Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain, who triumphed over Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino by 22 points to 18 in Bermeo.

The final was held on Saturday 30th May at Beotibar in Tolosa and in a tough encounter, where the scores were tied at 15-15, the plaudits went to Gonzalez and Laskurain, who eventually ran out 22-16 winners over Olaizola I and Mendizabal II. In a match which lasted 73 gruelling minutes, fatigue set in for the losing pair as the skill of Gonzalez proved telling.

Cecilio delivers dream debut

Today (Sunday 31st May) saw the professional debut of the 21 year old Riojan Cecilio Valgañón in his home town of Ezcaray. The defender recently signed a two year contract with ASPE. Hailing from the Titin III Centre for High Performance, Cecilio is the under 22 World Champion and also won the Diario Vasco Tournament in 2008.

In his first match for his new empresa, he was paired with his fellow Riojan Titin III against Capellan and Goni III and he could not have got his career off to a better start. In a 22-7 victory, the debutant and his veteran partner crushed the life out of their considerable opponents. Titin was on sparking form, particularly ruthless in his aggressive hooks and beautifully delicate in his deft touches to the corner. Cecilio too showed impressive skill, especially from the back of the fronton from where he let rip with his powerful right arm. He displayed a young man’s lack of nerves as he entered into the tough new environment of professional mano, and on this showing he should thrive. He and Titin were aided by the errors of their adversaries; while Fernando Goni was for the most part his usual solid self, Capellan was a clear second best to Titin and appeared at sea. As the winning shot was struck, Cecilio’s sizable fan club erupted with a barrage of drumming and shouting, before the young man was hoisted aloft, the hero of the evening.

Cecilio Valgañón González
Date of birth: 28/09/1987
Place of birth: Ezcaray (La Rioja)
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 1.89m
Position: defender
Past results: Campeonato del Mundo, sub-22, 2008; Campeonato de España de Clubes, 2008; Campeonato Diario Vasco 2008; Campeón GRAVN sub-22 parejas, 2007

New pro Cecilio

New pro Cecilio

Image from: ASPE

Manomanista Championship: Juan Martinez de Irujo pulls himself back from the brink

Sunday 3rd May
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian

Two weeks after beating Yves Xala into submission with a 22-4 near whitewash, the whirlwind from Ibero was back on court on Sunday, this time to face Sebastian Gonzalez, a semi finalist last year. Irujo has appeared an impregnable wall thus far this year and nobody expected Gonzalez, an excellent player in his own right, to put up a very staunch fight. Nothing could be further from the truth, for Gonzalez shocked Irujo to his very core; he looked nothing like the pelotari who steamrollered Xala. Although he pulled the cat out of the bag to take the win with an astonishing comeback, this match will have given his rivals something of a boost, for the mercurial Irujo is far from unbeatable.

In the early exchanges, Irujo showed no signs for alarm, taking three points in a row to lead 3-1. However, in bafflingly quick time, he found himself trailing 16-7. Gonzalez exceeded his rival in every area: he was metronomically consistent, his volley was lethal and his tactics superior. Irujo appeared lacking in ideas or options, struck the ball badly and made a string of errors. Gonzalez must have thought he was home and dry, but Irujo is a fighter of the highest calibre and he refused to lie down. When he regained his serve at 8-16, there was no stopping the 2006 champion who won 15 straight points to eliminate his rival. His serve was his major weapon in this dramatic about turn but he also used the walls to great effect in open play; Gonzalez had gone from hunter to hunted in emphatic style as Irujo called the shots. Irujo was also aided by his rival’s errors, which were now numerous. Gonzalez lost this game as much as Irujo won it.

So, we have the semi final for which many had hoped; Irujo will play the defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea at a yet to be agreed location on 17th May. This promises to be an explosive match, pitching against each other two of the most physical pelotaris on the scene. Irujo cannot afford to give Bengoetxea a nine point lead of he wishes to reach his first Manomanista final in three years.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-3, 6-3, 6-5, 10-5, 10-7, 16-7 and 16-22.

Source: Diario Vasco

2nd Division Manomanista: Olazabal the comeback kid into the semi finals

Friday 1st May
Aritzbatalde, Zarautz

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.

Mikel Olazabal

Mikel Olazabal

Mano webcast information for this weekend

Friday 1st May
22:15 (CEST) OLAETXEA v OLAZABAL (2nd Division Manomanista quarter final)

Live on ETB-Sat

Sunday 3rd May
Atano III, San Sebastian
18:00 (CEST) GONZALEZ v MARTINEZ DE IRUJO (Manomanista Championship quarter final)

Live on ETB-Sat


The other Manomanista semi final to take place this weekend is that between BENGOETXEA VI and PATXI RUIZ at Labrit, Pamplona on Saturday 2nd May at around 18:00 (CEST). This will not be webcast but there is a live ticker at pelotalive.
There is also a 2nd Division Manomanista semi final, tonight (Friday 1st May) in Albelda de Iregua between URRIZELKI and ARRUTI. There will be no webcast or live ticker for this but the result will be posted at pelotalive.

Gonzalez and Irujo lock horns on Sunday

Gonzalez and Irujo lock horns on Sunday

Mano results roundup

The Manomanista Championship took a break this weeked ahead of the quarter finals which start on Saturday. However, the world of pelota mano barely ever stops and there is much to report upon from the past few days, including the second division manomanista, in which we are down to the last eight.

We start with the second tier competition, where things are a little complicated, with intra-emprea heats and quarter finals taking place on the same weekend. This tournament is structured differently to the main Manomanista Championship, with players facing competition from within their own empresas for the right to play in the knockout stages. On Saturday two ASPE pelotaris faced each other; talented 22 year old Mikel Olazabal defeated Xabier Galarza (Galarza VI) 22-11 to seal his place in the quarter finals The result was never in too much doubt, despite Olazabal letting his form slip in the middle portion of the encounter, which opened the door a fraction to Galarza. However, after a time out he regained his head to win at a canter. He will now play 24 year old Gipuzkoan Mikel Olaetxea in the last eight on Friday. Two quarter finals were also played this weekend. In the first, which took place in Pamplona on Saturday, Mikel Beroiz of ASPE beat Iker Arretxe of Asegarce 22-18. Over in Eibar on Sunday, Jokin Argote (Asegarce) defeated Inaki Larralde (ASPE) 22-20. The other quarter final, which will take place at Albelda de Iregua on Friday, pits Pablo Urrizelki (Asegarce) against Asier Arruti (ASPE).

In other news, three of the Manomanista quarter finalists were in action in doubles games, no doubt intended to hone their form. All three fared well. On Friday, Juan Martinez de Irujo teamed up with Xabier Urberuaga to defeat Aritz Lasa and Inigo Pascual 22-13 in Urretxu. On Sunday, Irujo plays Sebastian Gonzalez in San Sebastian for a place in the last four. Urberuaga has to wait until May 10th to play Aimar Olaizola in what is really a third round match owing to the withdrawal of Abel Barriola through injury. Despite this, the winner will progress to the semi finals, and will start next year’s tournament at the same stage as the other semi finalists. On Saturday, it was the turn of Aimar Olaizola himself to get in some match practice. The former double champion and Alexis Apraiz comfortably defeated Juantxo Koka and Aritz Begino 22-13 in Pamplona.

This weekend, the excitement of the Manomanista Championship returns with the following quarter final fixtures, including the start of the title defence of the defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea:

Saturday 2nd May, Pamplona: Bengoetxea VI v Patxi Ruiz

Sunday 3rd May, San Sebastian: Martinez de Irujo v Gonzalez

Jokin Argote

Jokin Argote

Manomanista Championship: Beloki's experience tells in defeat of Agirre

Sunday 19th April
Astelena, Eibar
BELOKI beat AGIRRE 22-11

Ruben Beloki can seem a quiet and rather unassuming character in comparison to the other past champions in the draw, about whom there is infinitely more fuss being made. However, of all 2009’s illustrious competitors, the 34 year old from Burlada is the most decorated, at least in manomanista terms, having been champion in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2001. He also holds the distinction of being the youngest ever winner; he was all of 20 years old in 1995. He himself admits to the loss of some of his speed and power, but he makes up for these deficiences in his experience and guile, as Imanol Agirre was to discover to his cost.

Agirre, who is also 34, has also been around a while, having made his professional debut fourteen years ago. He is, however, far less decorated than his opponent here and on this occasion at least, far less assured. Things started positively for the man from Bilbao and the encounter was all square at 5-5. The early points were long and enthralling and the protagonists traded blows with equal venom. However, slowly but surely, Beloki exerted himself upon the game, winning the next six points at barely a canter. He served long and hard to put his opponent on the back foot from the off and then controlled the play with impressive composure. This was nowhere more apparent than in the point which took the score to 9-5, in which Beloki made Agirre run for sheer life before nonchalantly swiping to ball crosscourt while his rival was totally off the scene. Beloki also showed his prowess at turning defence into attack. For all his inability to impose himself, Agirre fought doggedly and managed to produce an exellent shot which used both walls in an attempt to bamboozle Beloki. Miraculously however, the latter reached it and broke Agirre’s spirit by producing a low crosscourt winner from a seemingly hopeless situation.

Beloki would not have everything his own way and there followed a passage of play in which Agirre showed signs of recovery, reducing his deficit to two points at 11-9. The underdog showed Beloki that he could play him at his own game by manouvering him around the fronton and rendering him out of place on three occasions. He also won a point with a barrelling serve. However, his stoical resistence was not to last and the former champion regained control to take six points without reply. Agirre, while still fighting, appeared now to be more prone to error, failing to retrieve two serves which he could not get under and miscuing two overhead volleys. Although Agirre managed to salvage two further points, the remainder of the match was all about Beloki, who composed the pattern and speed of the match before playing it to perfection. As Beloki showed his prowess in shot making and finishing points with a flourish, Agirre continued to miss when he attempted to volley and hit with unnecessary inaccuracy, a victim of his opponent’s relentless pressure.

This was a job well done by Beloki, who was not flashy but dominant nonetheless. In the fourth round he faces Asier Olaizola, who made the semi finals last year, in an encounter with no clear favourite. While Olaizola will come at Beloki with all guns blazing, his wiles could be his salvation. Beloki has not won a txapela of any kind since 2003; he has a long way to go here before another is in sight but his brand of quiet assurance could serve him well in the coming weeks.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 3-1, 3-5, 11-5, 11-9, 17-9, 17-10, 20-10, 20-11 and 22-11.

Ruben Beloki on top

Ruben Beloki on top

Manomanista Championship: Irujo destroys Xala

Saturday 18th April
Labrit, Pamplona

Yves Salaberry, known in sporting terms as Xala, stood bodily in the path of a hurricane on Friday night. That hurricane originated in Ibero and made its way to Labrit to wreak havoc in the form of one Juan Martinez de Irujo, pelotari supreme. Xala must have come into this match with some confidence, despite the reputation of his opponent. The man from Lekuine played an excellent pairs championship, despite his lack of defensive support hindering his chances of making the knockout stages, and Irujo, while brilliant, can be eminently beatable. Nobody, least of all Xala, can have expected this.

Xala started well, his strong left arm winning him the first point, but Irujo, amazingly, won the next twenty. He was unable to do anything as Irujo served with aplomb, volleyed brilliantly and used the two walls as his play things. Only in the dying moments of the match did Xala manage to offer any kind of meagre resistance, winning three points in a row to save a little face. Irujo has won the Manomanista title on two previous occasions, in 2004 and 2006, and few would bet a large sum against him here. There will be sterner tests ahead but on the strength of this performance, he must surely be the man to fear. The only slight worry for Irujo came in the penultimate play of the match when he twisted his ankle. However, the injury is not thought to be serious and he hopes to resume training on Monday or Tuesday. He has until 3rd May to prepare for his quarter final against Sebastian Gonzalez, to whom he lost last year at the same stage. Gonzalez will need to muster all his resources if that result is to be repeated.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-20, 4-20, 4-22.

Martinez de Irujo: unstoppable

Martinez de Irujo: unstoppable