Tennis: Cilic to face Lopez in Queen’s final

Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates after winning his semi final.
Marin Cilic of Croatia celebrates after winning his semi final. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) – Spain’s Feliciano Lopez succeeded in his Queen’s Club revenge mission against world number 11 Grigor Dimitrov to set up a final showdown with Marin Cilic.

Lopez held a championship point in the 2014 Queen’s final against Dimitrov before crashing to a three-set defeat, but the world number 32 made amends for that painful loss in Saturday’s (June 24) semi-finals as he beat the Bulgarian 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

The 35-year-old will face Cilic in Sunday’s title match at the Wimbledon warm-up event after the Croatian reached his third Queen’s final with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Gilles Muller.

Lopez has won eight of his nine grass-court matches this year and will look to clinch his first ATP title of 2017 after losing in the Stuttgart final last week.

“I’m very happy to be here in the final because it’s one of my most special tournaments,” Lopez said.

“I would love to win this title. I knew it would be difficult today but I’ve played some of my best tennis all week.”

Cilic became the first player to break Muller in the tournament despite a barrage of 22 aces from the world number 26 and hammered down 20 aces of his own to return to the Queen’s final for the first time since 2013.

The 28-year-old lifted the Queen’s trophy in 2012 and finished runner-up to Andy Murray a year later.

Although Cilic dropped a set for the first time this week, the former US Open champion hit back impressively to secure his second ATP final berth of 2017.

World number seven Cilic is chasing a second title this year, and 18th in total, following his success in Istanbul last month.

“Today’s match was a really high level. I played really well throughout and Gilles was pushing me to the limits,” Cilic said.

“I’ve felt really good on serve all week. I was mixing it up and playing smart.” .

TENSE

Both Cilic and Muller had made it to the last four without dropping serve, while the Croatian hadn’t even faced a break point.

It was Muller who cracked first as Cilic broke for a 4-2 lead that sealed the first set.

Having won the ‘s-Hertogenbosch title last week, Muller came into the semi-finals holding a 7-0 record on grass this year.

He hit back to win the second set, but Cilic delivered the knockout blow with a break in seventh game of the final set and fittingly sealed the victory with an ace.

In the second semi-final of the day, a tense first set swung Lopez’s way when a Dimitrov double fault presented the Spaniard with a break point that he converted thanks to an unforced error from his flustered opponent.

Dimitrov was leading 3-2 in the second set when rain forced a lengthy delay, and when play resumed the Bulgarian became the first player to break Lopez’s serve in the tournament.

That was enough to seal the set for Dimitrov, but Lopez wasn’t fazed and he clinched the deciding set with a break in the sixth and eighth games.