London – Bulgarian fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov warmed up for Wimbledon by winning the Queen's Club title with a 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (8/6) victory over Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the final.
Dimitrov's maiden success on grass makes him the first player since Roger Federer and David Ferrer in 2012 to win titles on three different surfaces in the same year after his victories on hard courts in Acapulco and clay in Bucharest.
The world number 13, who was cheered on by girlfriend and French Open champion Maria Sharapova, is the first Bulgarian to win Queen's and the fourth ATP trophy of his promising career will make him a dark horse for the title when Wimbledon gets underway later this month.
Dimitrov takes home a cheque for £74,654 ($126,654, 90,100
euros) and 250 ATP ranking points, but more importantly he has added to the feeling that he is finally fulfilling the vast potential that saw him compared to Federer when he was a teenager.
The 23-year-old, the youngest player in the top 20, has always felt at home at Queen's ever since he was granted a wild card entry to the tournament five years ago when he was ranked a lowly 361.
And the former junior Wimbledon champion celebrated his victory over world number 29 Lopez by running to the side of the court to hand his racquet to Chris Kermode, the ATP President who gave Dimitrov that wild card during his time at Queen's tournament director.
Dimitrov's fluid movement and vast array of ground-strokes, which earned him the nickname 'Baby Fed' earlier in his career, were on full display against Lopez.
It was hard to believe that just two weeks ago he was at an all-time low after crashing out of the French Open first round against Ivo Karlovic, a painful defeat that prompted him to embark on soul-searching walks around London as he tried to recover his passion for the sport.
Evidently, the Queen's grass has proved the perfect tonic. The Bulgarian had played superbly to brush aside world number three Stan Wawrinka in an emphatic straight sets victory in the semi-finals and this was another impressive win over an opponent who had been in superb form.
Lopez's left-handed serve has been a problem none of his opponents could solve this week and he went into the final with a tournament-high 60 aces, having won 97 percent of his service games.
The 32-year-old may have grown up on the clay courts of Spain, but his serve and volley tactics recalled the halcyon days of grass-court tennis.
With Dimitrov's serve also proving impregnable, the first set went to a tie-break, in which the Bulgarian saved three set points before Lopez finally converted the fourth.
There was little to separate them again in the second set, but Lopez suddenly had a match point when Dimitrov sent a forehand long at 5-6.
The Spaniard went for the kill on second serve, but his booming forehand crashed into the net to give Dimitrov a reprieve.
Energised by his narrow escape, Dimitrov blew Lopez away with some brilliant shot-making in a one-sided tie-break.
Lopez refused to buckle and immediately claimed the first break of the match.
However, Lopez's nerve failed him with the title in reach and a double fault on break point allowed Dimitrov to draw level at 4-4.
It took another tie-break to decide a fascinating final and Dimitrov seized the moment, blasting a series of winners before falling to the turf in jubilation when Lopez fired a forehand into the net on match point. – Sapa-AFP