Lopez fan­cies tilt at the third ma­jor

Buoyed by Queen’s win, Spa­niard hopes he ‘can still play in same way’ next week

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL -

This year’s men’s sin­gles at Wim­ble­don prom­ises to be the most open for a decade, ac­cord­ing to Span­ish vet­eran Feli­ciano Lopez, who is qui­etly fan­cy­ing his own chances of a deep run.

While Roger Fed­erer was win­ning a ninth Halle ti­tle on Sun­day af­ter­noon to mark him­self out as favourite, fel­low 35-yearold Lopez rounded off an im­pres­sive week on the Queen’s Club lawns by win­ning the Ae­gon Cham­pi­onships.

Left-han­der Lopez said he is play­ing the best ten­nis of his ca­reer and it is hard to dis­agree with that af­ter vic­to­ries against world No 3 Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Grigor Dim­itrov and fi­nally Marin Cilic in the space of a week.

“Con­sid­er­ing the re­sults of the best play­ers in the world, it is true that it is prob­a­bly the most open Wim­ble­don in the last 10 years, I will say,” Lopez said, ref­er­enc­ing the strug­gles of Wim­ble­don cham­pion and world No 1 Andy Mur­ray and three­time winner Novak Djokovic.

“Roger is play­ing great. He’s not play­ing much, but when he’s play­ing, he’s win­ning. Novak and Andy, it’s true that they are not play­ing their best, I will say, and Rafa [Nadal], he hasn’t played on grass for a long time.

“So it’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more open.”

Lopez, for all his el­e­gant grass­court skills and one of the most dev­il­ish serves in ten­nis, has only made three Wim­ble­don quar­ter-fi­nals in 15 vis­its, with the most re­cent time be­ing in 2011 when he was beaten in straight sets by Mur­ray.

Last year he reached the third round be­fore los­ing to Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios.

Af­ter a Queen’s fi­nal against Cilic in which he saved a match point be­fore clinch­ing a fi­nal set tiebreak 10-8, Lopez clearly be­lieves his best Wim­ble­don run might still be ahead of him, pos­si­bly in the next few weeks.

“Ten­nis is a unique sport where any­thing can hap­pen. From one day to the other, it can be so dif­fer­ent,” said Lopez, who was to be ranked 25 yes­ter­day and will be seeded at Wim­ble­don.

“It is true that I’m go­ing into Wim­ble­don with a lot of con­fi­dence. Prob­a­bly this is the Wim­ble­don that I feel more con­fi­dent go­ing into it.

“But next week, you know, the draw has to be done. And then I hope I can still play in the same way. Ten­nis is about sen­sa­tions, feel­ings. Win­ning here, it’s the best prepa­ra­tion I can have. But on the other way, I think you can have a very tough draw from the very be­gin­ning.”

Lopez is the first Spa­niard to win Queen’s since Nadal in 2008 af­ter which the Mal­lor­can won Wim­ble­don.

Nadal, 31, will ar­rive this time hav­ing just claimed a 10th French Open but with no com­pet­i­tive grass-court play, hav­ing pulled out of the Queen’s Club event.

Lopez warned against writ­ing off his com­pa­triot, though. “He didn’t play one match on grass for such a long time. But with Rafa you never know, be­cause he’s ca­pa­ble of ev­ery­thing,” Lopez said. “But Roger, for sure, is the num­ber one con­tender.

Wim­ble­don, the third grand slam tour­na­ment of the sea­son, be­gins on July 3, with the women’s fi­nal on July 15 and the men’s fi­nal on July 16.

Steven Pas­ton / AP Photo

Span­ish player Feli­ciano Lopez, 35, beat Marin Cilic to win at Queen’s Club.

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