World number 39 Feliciano Lopez caused an upset at Devonshire Park as he secured his first ATP title on grass at the expense of number two seed Gilles Simon in the 2013 AEGON International men’s singles final on Saturday.
The duo slogged for two hours and 48 minutes, each pocketing a tie-break set a-piece before Lopez ran away with the third set by whitewash to secure the surprise victory – one made even more eyebrow-raising by the fact he wasted an astonishing 17 break points during the three sets.
It was no mean feat, though, with the gale-force winds whistling around Centre Court making it extremely difficult for either man to control his respective serves or shots in the epic and gruelling final.
Lopez, who will hope to see off his victim again when they meet in the first round of The Championships, Wimbledon next week, said, “I never play in conditions like this before, it was very tough.
“Most of the match was only about pushing and putting the ball on the other side of the court. Serving was sometimes impossible because the wind was blowing everywhere. Normally it goes from one side to the other but here it was all around. It was so strange.”
Lopez and Simon both broke the other’s serve once in the opening set to force a tie-break, in which world number 17 Simon seemingly crumbled to lose 7-2 and surrender the first step towards glory.
The second set was an even closer affair with neither player securing that all-important break, despite Lopez having six opportunities compared to the Frenchman’s three.
Again, a tie-break ensued and Simon learned from his previous mistakes to triumph this time round, by a narrower margin of 7-5, to return the match to level terms and become the first player to take a set off Lopez so far this tournament.
However, a remarkable collapse from the last men’s seed standing saw Lopez secure three breaks and hold his own serve to romp to a 6-0 third-set victory and snatch the prestigious trophy.
The Spaniard now pockets £71,958 for his third tour title.
He added, “It’s great. It’s my third title in my career and grass if my best surface so to have at least one on grass is a very nice feeling.
“It was a very strange game. In the second set tie-break, I was so unlucky and then I got an early break in the third.
“On grass, two breaks is a lot to come back from so I think he just lost the hope that he can still win.”