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Feliciano Lopez beats Marin Cilic in Queen’s Club final

Crowd favourite Feliciano Lopez beat Marin Cilic 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(8) in a nail-biting final at the Queens Club Championships final.

tennis Updated: Jun 25, 2017 22:52 IST
Marin Čilić‬,‪Queen's Club Championships‬,‪Feliciano López‬
Feliciano Lopez raises the trophy after winning the men's singles final tennis match against Marin Cilic at the Queen's Club Championship. (AFP)

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez claimed the biggest title of his long career when he battled back to beat Marin Cilic 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(8) in a nerve-wracking final of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club on Sunday.

The 35-year-old, who suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the 2014 final when he held a match point against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, this time saved one in a tense tiebreak shootout before toppling the Croat after two hours 32 minutes.

Fourth seed Cilic also saved two match points, but at the third time of asking crowd favourite Lopez could finally celebrate a sixth career title after Cilic pulled a forehand into the tramlines.

“I can’t believe that I finally won it, I’ve been waiting for 15 or 16 years to hold this trophy,” an emotional Lopez, three times a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, said on court.

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I thought that at the end of the tiebreak after losing match points I wouldn’t make it but I managed to do it.

“It was tough to put that (match point in 2014) out of my mind so it was difficult to handle my nerves but I managed it.”

Lopez, yet another male player in their 30s who appears to be getting better with age, is the oldest winner of the prestigious Queen’s Club championship in the professional era.

He joins a celebrated list of former champions including the likes of John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Andy Murray and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

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All of those went on to win at Wimbledon and while Lopez will be long odds to do the same in three weeks time there will be few players in the draw who will fancy playing him.

Yet for the first half of the match on Sunday, he was second best as Cilic, bidding for a second title after winning in 2012 when David Nalbandian was defaulted for injuring a line judge in a fit of temper, dominated.

Cilic broke to love in the 10th game of the match to take the first set and kept his nose in front in the second, only to falter badly in the tiebreak which Lopez dominated.

The Spaniard had the advantage of serving first in the deciding set which rolled inexorably towards a decisive tiebreak.

Despite a tricky wind blowing across centre court and the prize at stake, the tiebreak was a mini epic with both players showing remarkable grasscourt skills.

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Cilic brought up match point with an ace but Lopez saved it when he cut off the Croat’s attempted pass with a stretching volley. Lopez then had a match point only for Cilic to snuff it out with his 22nd ace of the match.

Lopez performed miracles to scramble a point at 7-7 and serve for the match but Cilic responded with a nerveless volley after an exchange of blows from the baseline.

A 19th ace for Lopez brought up another match point and this time he would not be denied.

First Published: Jun 25, 2017 22:52 IST