It seemed as if Sebastien Gonzalez’s bad year was about to continue when he found himself 5-17 down to Mikel Urrutikoetxea in Orduña on Friday night. The young Asegarce rising star had a golden opportunity here to beat a seasoned campaigner, having totally dominated the first half of the match. His serve gave him the advantage time and again as he went long, forcing Gonzalez onto the back foot before striking the killer blow, either immediately or by bombing him into submission. Urrutikoetxea looked calm and completely comfortable, Gonzalez flustered and down at the mouth. Even an incorrect call by the line judge failed to unsettle him, and any suggestion of Gonzalez coming back seemed ludicrous. However, the serve won back, the former Cuatro y Medio champion hit his stride in an extraordinary fashion, taking the next seventeen points in a row. He was able to do on serve what Urrutikoetxea had done to him and the younger man failed to find the courage to use the volley in order to change the flow of the traffic. Upon drawing level, Gonzalez simply kept going. Urrutikoetxea appealed in growing desperation to his botillero Pablo Berasaluze, but there was nothing he could do to galvanise his charge. There will be more chances to come in the career of Mikel Urrutikoetxea, but he will rue this missed chance. Gonzalez will now play David Merino on in the quarter finals on Saturday at Bizkaia.
Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-10, 4-10, 4-15, 5-15, 5-17, 22-17.
Winners/errors: Gonzalez 13/3, Urrutikoetxea 9/1
Service winners/errors: Gonzalez 7/0, Urrutikoetxea 5/1
Match time: 49:49 with 9:57 of actual play
Balls hit: 206
Botilleros: Ramuntxo Muxika with Gonzalez and Pablo Berasaluze with Urrutikoetxea
Urrutikoetxea failed to turn his lead into victory
Abel Barriola was the red hot favourite in Eibar on Sunday and while Aritz Begino put up a sturdy fight for a decent period, the Leitzarra took the spoils with ease. This match represented a second throw of the dice for Begino who had already been knocked out of the tournament by Iker Arretxe. He was reinserted when Mikel Beroiz was declared unfit to play and in the early exchanges it seemed as if he was determined to grab his lifeline with both hands. He took the lead from the start with two service winners in a row, and after shadowing Barriola closely, he nudged ahead again at 5-7. However, Barriola tied the game with a txoko and a serve and from there never looked back. Begino kept him firmly within reach for a time, and a wonderful defensive effort from deep followed by a cross court winner on 11-7 showed that he would not lie down without a fight. Unfortunately for him though, Barriola found another gear and pulled away. He was superior in every department in the second phase of the match, using his serve to great effect (despite two faltas) and controlling the front of the playing area so that Begino was forced back into desperate defence. A late flurry in the form of a ball over Barriola’s head and a service winner made the scoreline slightly more respectable but a falta put paid to any chance of a resurgence and Barriola took the tie with a txoko. He now takes on Martinez de Irujo in the same venue on Sunday.
Scoring sequence: 0-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4, 5-5, 5-7, 11-7, 11-9, 12-9, 12-10, 13-10, 13-11, 20-11, 20-13, 22-13.
Winners/errors: Barriola 13/6, Begino 7/9
Service winners/errors: Barriola 3/2, Begino 4/2
Match time: 49:16 with 10:21 of actual play
Balls hit: 186
In the weekend’s other first round matches, Mikel Olaetxea won a 22-21 nail biter against Jon Ander Albisu in Tolosa on Saturday, and Aritz Lasa came through easily against Iker Arretxe, taking their match in Legazpi 22-10. They will now play Retegi Bi and Olaizola I respectively.
In the Promocion Manomanista Ekurdia beat Gorka 22-9, Mendizabal III beat Merino I 22-6 and Zabaleta beat Olazabal 22-10. Jaunarena progressed automatically due to an injury to Larrinaga. The quarter finals, which all take place on Sunday, are Rico IV v Ezkurdia, Untoria v Mendizabal III, Ibai Zabala v Jaunarena and Lemuno v Zabaleta.
A win for Aitor Mendizabal