Both players cruised to the final during a relatively easy week for the top two seeds to their first meeting on the ATP Tour since 2010, and predictably the Centre Court crowd were treated to a dramatic final.
With the 32-year-old Spaniard storming past two opponents on Friday, his first true test of the week was presented by #1 seed Gasquet – who had a 100% winning record of five victories over Lopez on the professional circuit.
Gasquet, who only made his Eastbourne debut in order to hone both his fitness levels and form after a two-month layoff from the ATP Tour because of a back injury, cut through the Devonshire Park draw like a knife through butter.
And Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin had no answer in their swift semi-final encounter, which signalled that Gasquet – the sole top 20 player in the draw – is back in business.
But the French star, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist whose game suits grass courts, fell narrowly short against Lopez to miss out on capturing an 11th ATP Tour title.
Lopez, playing in his second grass court final in the space of a week, got off to a terrific start to wrap up the opening set on the half-hour mark by twice breaking Gasquet – in the third and ninth games.
Gasquet came close to breaking the Spaniard for the first time, but missed out on the only break point although forced a trio of deuces on the third game in the second set.
With Lopez looking weary, which wasn’t surprising after back-to-back matches on Friday to surge into the final, he lost his serve to trail 4-3. But was swift to repair the damage by returning the favour on his opponent to square matters at 4-4.
With nothing to choose between the two players the ultimate tie-break was contested, Gasquet snatching it 7-5 after twice breaking Lopez’s serve to force a decisive third set.
With the result on a knife-edge, Lopez left it late to pounce and by snatching the 11th game on Gasquet’s serve was on the cusp of victory.
He duly won four of the next five points to win at Eastbourne for a second year on the bounce – something that has never previously been achieved in the Men’s tournament at Devonshire Park.
And Lopez could not have been more overjoyed having fluffed a match point to end up as the runner-up to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov at Queen’s Club in London last Sunday, Lopez returned to winning ways.
Lopez had seen off Lleyton Hewitt, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek to reach the final at Queen’s Club. At Eastbourne he dismissed German Qualifier Tobias Kamke in a tight 2nd Round match on Wednesday. Then on Friday beat France’s Jeremy Chardy in a tie postponed from Thursday, following it up with another straight set victory – accounting for American Sam Querrey.
Lopez has reeled off 10 wins in a sensational two weeks on grass, and next for the affable Spanish veteran is another prospective of a fortnight on grass – Wimbledon watch out.