Tag Archives: Zestoa

Pairs Week 7: the slow moving saga unravels

Friday 1st February, Zestoa: OLAIZOLA II – IBAI ZABALA beat ARRETXE II – BEGINO 22-6
Many questioned the wisdom of pairing the might of Aimar Olaizola with the inexperience of the untried Ibai Zabala, but thus far the experiment is working, mostly. The empresas made a conscious policy of picking pairs which would be evenly matched, thus creating close matches and greater excitement but at times, the dominance of Olaizola has been so great that he appears to all the world as if he could win entirely alone. This would, however, be to do Zabala a disservice for he has held his own at this level for the most part and has at times looked very solid indeed. It is too soon to tell whether they will have the staying power to go all the way, but on the strength of this showing they can be fairly optimistic. It is true that this year just as last, Arretxe and Begino are clearly the least potent of the couples, but they were destroyed here in no uncertain terms. They kept pace for a short period, Arretxe temporarily hitting with Aimar as an equal, but once the latter got his eye in there was no stopping him. This was as vintage a display of shot play as you are ever likely to see and there was nothing his opponent could do to stem the flow. Zabala played his part ably as Begino endured another bad day. Olaizola and Ibai Zabala move up to third in the table, with this their fourth win. Arretxe and Begino remain entrenched at the bottom with a solitary point. It is easy to forget that, not so long ago, Begino lifted the trophy with Olaizola. Times have changed.

Saturday 2nd February, Idiazabal: EZKURDIA – ZUBIETA beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ 22-11
Aitor Zubieta’s first match without the ousted Sebastien Gonzalez was a triumph. It was he who made the difference, dominating Beroiz at the back and giving Bengoetxea virtually nothing on a length from which he could hit a winner. When the opportunity did come his way, he proved unable to close the deal. Joseba Ezkurdia, miraculously recovered from what looked like a much more serious shoulder injury, stepped into the fray and looked as if he had always been there. He belied his tender years, and doubtless also allayed the fears of the Aspe bosses that they might have taken the wrong decision regarding Gonzalez. An Ezkurdia flop would have looked very bad indeed. However, it will take more than one golden match to resurrect the title hopes of this pair. With Gonzalez, Zubieta managed only a solitary win, over bottom pair Arretxe and Begino. They still languish in seventh but with a full rotation of matches still to be played, time is on their side. In the early days of the championship, Bengoetxea and Beroiz looked almost unbeatable and every inch the winners. However, as some other pairs have risen, their form appears slightly on the wane. They are still second in the table, with five wins and two losses, but both these defeats have come in the last two weeks. Their immediate future trajectory depends on whether Bengoetxea can keep Olaizola at bay when they clash on Friday at Labrit.

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

A good day for Aitor Zubieta

Saturday 2nd February, Pamplona: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – ZABALETA beat JAUNARENA – BARRIOLA 22-13
Very much on the up are Juan Martinez de Irujo and Jose Javier Zabaleta. They have lost only one match so far, and that 21-22 (to Bengoetxea and Beroiz in week three), and look be growing in both confidence and flair. Attracting much of the praise is Zabaleta, new to this level of competition but taking to the big stage like a natural. It is easy to forget his tender years when one observes his command at the back of the fronton, and sensed the calmness in his demeanour. Aspe have clearly found a treasure, no matter what happens from this point on in the Pairs. Irujo, who has not had a great year by his standards, lagging dramatically behind Olaizola in the quest to be the best, appears galvanised by this new partnership. Jaunarena, another golden young talent here stepping in for Xala, proved easy pickings for Irujo on Saturday but will not be overawed; last week he clearly demonstrated his potential at this level. Barriola, so used to being in charge, could not unseat Zabaleta as the pair in red dominated every aspect of the game. They now sit top of the table in isolation while their opponents slip to sixth with two losses in the past two weekends. Xala will undergo a physical test on Friday to determine whether he can play in Tolosa on Saturdau against Ezkurdia and Zubieta.

Sunday 3rd February, Bilbao: BERASALUZE VIII – ALBISU beat TITIN III – MERINO II 22-9
The Pairs Championship is a slow burning affair. Some couples hit their stride right from the off, winning weekly with seeming total control. Others, such as Jon Ander Albisu and Pablo Berasaluze enter the tournament with high hopes but initially fail to fire. However, as long as any period of malaise is relatively contained, there is time to turn things around and there is a sense that recovery may be on the cards for Albisu and Berasaluze. They opened their account with four straight losses but have now won three in a row, lifting them from the base of the table up into fifth and right in contention for the semi-final places. This latest win was perhaps their most impressive; they flattened the defending champions 22-9 in Bilbao on Sunday, leaving the Riojans looking dejected and clueless as to how to come back. The commander in chief was undoubtedly Berasaluze, who looks to be back in the same kind of form he displayed in December. He hit winners for fun and totally dominated Titin who looked flat footed and stretched to his limits. David Merino, so often such a model of classical elegance at the back, for forced to scrap in order to lift himself out of the traps placed for him by a masterful Albisu, who was clearly the better of the defenders. So petulant was Merino’s body language by the end that he appeared broken in both body and soul. And so, Titin and Merino’s up and down title defence continues. They still sit fourth, holding onto the final qualifying spot narrowly, but there is still far to go.

For the current table see here, and for past results and future fixtures, go here.

In the Promocion Championship, Gorka and Cecilio took command at the top with a 22-6 win over Lemuno and Aretxabaleta. Elsewhere, Urrutikoetxea (replacing Tainta) and Ladis Galarza beat Mendizabal III and Merino I 22-14, Elezkano II and Mendizabal II (standing in for Larunbe) beat Olazabal and Arruti 22-18 and Apezetxea and Larrinaga squeezed past Rico IV and Untoria 22-21. For the full Promocion table, see here and for results and fixtures, here.

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Gorka Esteban, going well in the Promocion

Pictures: mine

Pairs Championship: improving Gonzalez-Laskurain cause an upset, and Titin-Pascual cement their position

Apologies once again this week for the lack of in depth reporting; I was in Manchester all weekend at the track cycling World Cup, so rather too busy with other things to watch any pelota! However, here is the first of two instalments in my round up of the Pairs action from this rotation.

Friday 18th February, Zestoa


We begin in Zestoa, which witnessed the shock of the week. Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino suffered their first lost of the competition the previous weekend, and here it became two in a row as they were taken apart by Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain. Their previous loss was a close one, but this was far more worrying for the former table toppers, who are now usurped by Xala and Barriola by virtue of points difference, both having played eight and won six. Gonzalez and Laskurain are very much on the up, having now won four matches in a row. They sit third in the table, at the head of the group of four pairs on four wins from eight. The Aspe partnership dominated the game, with Laskurain the pick of the bunch, improving his performance beyond recognition from past weeks. Neither Asegarce player had their best day to put it mildly, but Begino was especially ill at ease, conceding six errors. Gonzalez was at his potent best, chalking up three aces, and eight winners in open play, alongside only one error.

Scoring sequence: 0-4 / 1-4 / 1-6 / 2-6 / 3-6 / 3-10 / 4-10 / 5-10 / 5-16 / 6-16 / 7-16 / 7-18 / 8-18 / 8-19 / 9-19 / 10-19 / 10-22.

Match time was 48 minutes, with 19 minutes of playing time. 366 balls were hit.

Sunday 20th February, Logrono


Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz dealt their chances of qualification a severe blow down in Rioja on Sunday, by mailing to beat local hero Titin and his partner Inigo Pascual at Adarraga. Their loss means that they slip out of the mid table group of pairs who are tied on points for the third to sixth spots, and languish only one off the foot of the table. Titin and Pascual now sit fifth, and are very much in the hunt for qualification. The Aspe pair were by far the better in this tie, with the greatest disparity in quality coming at the back, where Apraiz could make no inroads into the dominance of Pascual. Pascual provided the perfect attacking platform for Titin, who was rarely troubled and largely kept Berasaluze locked out of the match. His twelve winners to Pablo’s five demonstrated the greater attacking potency of the winning pair,

Scoring sequence: 2-0 / 2-1 / 9-1 / 9-2 / 9-5 / 10-5 / 12-5 / 12-6 / 12-7 / 16-7 / 16-8 / 17-8 / 17-9 / 18-10 / 22-11

Match time was 49 minutes, with 17 minutes of playing time.


Gonzalez and Laskurain are on a roll

Gonzalez and Laskurain are on a roll

Image from: Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga