Lopez Foils Dimitrov To Reach Back-To-Back Finals
There is no stopping Feliciano Lopez on grass. The Spanish veteran continued his mastery of the surface in reaching a second straight final on Saturday at the Aegon Championships.
Lopez overcame 33 winners from Grigor Dimitrov and a lengthy rain delay to advance to the final 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. He claimed 87 per cent first-serve points and benefitted from 25 unforced errors by the Bulgarian. Having only been broken once all week (53/54 service games won), the Spaniard sets a final clash against fellow big-hitter Marin Cilic on Sunday.
A rematch of the 2014 final at The Queen's Club, won by Dimitrov in three tie-breaks, Lopez finally got his revenge on an overcast and rainy Saturday afternoon. Runner-up at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart last week (l. to Pouille), he will contest his 17th ATP World Tour final and fifth on grass.
"You can imagine how important it is for me to be in the final of Queen's at this stage of my career," said Lopez. "It is one of the tournaments that you, first of all, you love. I was dreaming to play here. When I was younger I was watching Queen's all the time and it's one of those tournaments that you always want to play. For me, it's so special to be in the final.
"This year hasn't been great for me. I started the year with an injury in Australia. So it's a gift for me to be again in a final, especially here."
Lopez was relentless in attacking Dimitrov's backhand in their semi-final encounter. The sixth seeded Bulgarian netted a backhand to give Lopez the first break of the match, as the Spaniard came in behind a low slice approach that hugged the Centre Court grass.
After dropping the opener, Dimitrov would answer back, striking a blazing winner down the line and forcing a Lopez error for the lone break in the second. But a two-hour rain delay early in the third set stopped his momentum and Lopez seized control. Dimitrov turned aside six break chances in the fourth game, but Lopez would claim the decisive break two games later and emerged with the win after two hours and two minutes.
"In the third set I played probably the best set of the week, to be honest, on my serve and also on the return," added Lopez. "I was moving well, I was very aggressive, I had so many chances to break from the very beginning of the third set.
"I was aggressive enough with my serve and then I put so many balls in and I think he was feeling the pressure. I had so many chances. Finally I got the break at 4-2 and then the last one also to win the set."
Lopez evened the FedEx ATP Head2Head series at two apiece, with three of their meetings having come at the Aegon Championships. He earned a first-round win in 2010, while Dimitrov countered with a final victory in 2014 and also triumphed at the Western & Southern Open last year.
Lopez, who improved to 71-37 on grass in his career, will vie for a sixth ATP World Tour title and third on his preferred surface. He previously lifted the trophy in Eastbourne in 2013-14.
Fourth seed Cilic carries a 5-2 edge over Lopez into Sunday's final. They most recently met in the Roland Garros third round three weeks ago, with the Croatian winning in straight sets. He also took both their previous encounters at The Queen's Club, in the 2013 second round and 2016 first round.
"I played him many times. I played him here last year and had a match point. I lost in the end. He's been playing unbelievable. Today he beat Muller, one of the best players on grass. It's a pretty impressive effort. I think Marin is also a great grass-court player. He plays good everywhere, but on grass he's especially good. I have to keep it up with my level, with the way I'm playing, and wait for my chances."