Feliciano Lopez claimed the scalp of Gilles Simon for the second time in three days with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(11) victory over the No.19 seed in the late afternoon sunshine.
On Saturday the man from Madrid had drawn swords with the Frenchman in the final of Eastbourne, where he successfully negotiated a three-set tussle to collect his first grass court title at the age of 31.
That particular contest had been fought in the testing, blustery conditions of Devonshire Park, but this afternoon’s outing was played out in the more serene surroundings of No.3 Court where the Spanish left hander immediately took control without even trying.
If the world No.17 Simon had been looking to seek revenge over Lopez he did not let it show in his play at the start. The man who reached the round of 16 here in 2009 appeared considerably out of sorts in his opening service game, netting three balls and hitting another long to gift Lopez an early break.
In stark contrast, Lopez’s serve was flowing beautifully - 123 mph serves were par for the course although now and then he snuck in 134 mph shots for good measure. By the seventh game the Spaniard was displaying the splendid grass court tennis which helped him reach the quarter finals here in 2005, 2008 and 2011.
A combination of precision low slice groundstrokes and heavy topspin drives worked to interrupt Simon’s rhythm - he made three consecutive errors to hand Lopez a second break and the opportunity to serve for the set, which Lopez duly captured when Simon floated a ball long.
Before Eastbourne the players had only met once before, on the hard courts of Rotterdam, where Simon emerged the victor losing five games, but this afternoon was a different story. The 28-year-old, who holds 10 Tour titles, appeared flat-footed and an error once again saw his opening service game slip away and gave Lopez the upper hand for the rest of the set.
Despite coughing and spluttering his way through much of the third, Simon raised his game to force a tie-break. Spectacular serve and volleying helped the Frenchman on his way to six set points, but world No.32 Lopez wasn’t having any of it, sterring his way out of trouble with magnificent serving - aces down the tee. When Simon hit a ball long on Lopez’s third match point victory again belonged to the Spaniard.
Lopez served an incredible 21 aces and just 12 unforced errors, compared to Simon’s 26. He will now meet another Frenchman, Paul-Henri Mathieu, in the second round.
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