LONDON (REUTERS) - Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon struck a blow for the older generation as they held off two of the sport's most exciting young talents to reach the Queen's Club final on Saturday (June 22).
After Frenchman Simon, 34, ground down Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3 in baseline war of attrition, the 37-year-old Lopez used his vast experience to down 18-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4.
Left-handed Spaniard Lopez, whose ranking has slipped to 113 and who has received a Wimbledon wildcard, will be contesting his first final since winning the prestigious Queen's event two years ago.
Simon will be aiming to become the first Frenchman to triumph at the prestigious grasscourt event.
Both semi-finals were absorbing in an their own way.
The first was crammed full of interminable rallies regularly surpassing 30 strokes as Simon and Medvedev turned their match into the equivalent of a staring contest.
The second featured the old-school serve-and-volley of Lopez against the silky clean hitting of world number 21 Auger-Aliassime who had picked off Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas this week.
After requiring three hours 20 minutes to get past compatriot Nicolas Mahut on Friday - the longest match at Queen's since 1991 - it was surprising to see Simon outlast a player 11 years his junior.
"I put the ball in the court. That's what I do. And I do it for long," Simon told reporters.
With similar styles, both players camped out on the baseline waiting for openings that rarely materialised.
Medvedev won a 45-stroke rally to move 5-3 ahead in the tiebreak on his way to taking the opener.
After service breaks were exchanged early in the second set, however, it was Simon who began to take the upper hand.
Simon saved a break point at 1-1 in the decider, this time catching the baseline with a backhand to end a hypnotic 49-stroke exchange that had both players breathing hard on the warmest day of the rain-hit tournament.
Medvedev, clutching his back and leaning on his racket at times, looked a spent force and a double-fault cost him his serve at 3-4. Simon sealed victory in emphatic style to become the first French finalist here since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011.
Auger-Aliassime was the youngest semi-finalist at Queen's since Lleyton Hewitt, also 18, in 1999.
When he took the opening set against Lopez the prospect of him emulating Boris Becker, who in 1985 as a 17-year-old claimed his first Tour title by winning at Queen's, began to look increasingly likely.
He had not dropped a service game in the tournament and he banged down 14 aces in the first set.
Lopez was wobbling and had Auger-Aliassime converted the break point he had in the first game of the second set it was hard to see anything knocking the Canadian off course.
But he dropped serve for the first time in 44 service games when he hit a forehand long in the next game and Lopez suddenly looked revived as he took the second set.
Lopez saved a break point with an angled volley at the start of the third and his young opponent began to show the effects of a fourth match in three days.
He dropped serve at 2-2 and faced three match points at 0-40 when he served at 3-5, but hung on grimly.
Lopez calmly held, however, to win the match before teaming up with Andy Murray to finish off their doubles quarter-final that had been held over from the night before.