Marin Cilic and Feliciano Lopez recovered from having their serves broken for the first time this week to secure returns to the final of the Queen’s grass-court tournament on Saturday. Cilic, the 2012 champion, ended Gilles Muller’s seven-match winning run on grass with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory in the first semifinal.
Lopez then gained a measure of revenge for his loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the 2014 final by beating the Bulgarian 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in a hard-fought contest that was delayed mid-match by the first bout of heavy rain this week.
It’s not the title match many would have predicted at the start of the week, with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic _ the top three seeded players _ all getting eliminated in the first round. But it still contains two strong grass-court players who will be gaining plenty of confidence heading into Wimbledon, which starts on July 3.
“I am so happy to be in the final, it’s one of the most special tournaments for me. I have wanted to win this tournament so bad,” said No. 32-ranked Lopez, who expressed delight that Cilic was playing in a semifinal of the doubles on Saturday evening.
That was suspended near the end of the second set, with Cilic and Marcin Matkowski leading 6-1, 3-5 against Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. That match will conclude after the singles final on Sunday. Cilic is bidding to become the first man since Pete Sampras in 1995 to win the singles and doubles titles at one Queen’s.
The fourth-seeded Cilic certainly looks the fresher after four singles matches this week, with Lopez initially appearing jaded against Dimitrov following his tough three-set win over Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Lopez remained rooted in his seat, head in his hands, after clinching victory on Centre Court.
It took nearly nine sets this week for Lopez to lose his serve, helping Dimitrov take the semifinal to a deciding set. The left-handed Spaniard pounced on Dimitrov’s sudden weakness on his topspin backhand, wasting six break-point opportunities in the 10th game but succeeding in the sixth game when the sixth-seeded Dimitrov volleyed into the net.
“We had a great battle in the 2014 final so I knew it would be tough,” said Lopez, referring to a match that featured three tiebreakers.
“I was playing some of the best tennis of the whole week,” he added.
Cilic is guaranteed to be at least No. 6 in the rankings, which is a career high, after dealing Muller a first loss of the grass-court season following the left-hander’s title win in Netherlands last week.
Cilic sent a backhand down the line to clinch the sixth game of the match and the only break of the first set. His serve remained dominant until the final game of the second set, when he went 0-40 and was broken on the second set point.
It proved to be a momentary lapse, as Cilic regained control and converted his second match point when he fired down a second-serve ace.
“Today’s match was an extremely high level,” Cilic said. “I was playing really, really good throughout and Gilles was pushing me to the limit. I was mixing it up really well and just playing really smart in some critical points.”
Cilic, a former U.S. Open champion, looks like being a danger at Wimbledon, where he has reached the quarterfinals in the past three years.