Gilles Simon denied Andreas Seppi a place in his third successive Eastbourne final, defeating the Italian 6-4 6-3.
The #2 seed set up a final showdown with Spanish star Feliciano Lopez – which will be a warm-up for their Wimbledon 1st Round clash on Tuesday.
Simon will be attempting to emulate French compatriot Michael Llodra who beat fended off a Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, in the 2010 Aegon International at Devonshire Park.
Seppi has a tendency to make stuttering starts, and had a straightforward run to the final four. He saw off two qualifiers, France’s Guiliaume Rufin and American Ryan Harrison, in three sets but then found his feet to ease past Czech veteran Radek Stepanek for the loss of just six games.
But he was outclassed by Simon, whose trampoline effect of taking the pace off the ball upset his usual style of play.
A close opening set saw Simon have the slight edge but notch up through the gears to breeze into the final with an emphatic second set display.
Simon was in control until he lost his serve at 5-2 in the second set, but sealed success by immediately breaking the #7 seed to win in 84 minutes. “It was a real battle from the baseline. Andreas is just a good player, he won here two years ago and he made the final here last year.
“He has very good timing, so he never misses stupid shots. You have to work and play great against him. We played a very high level second set today.”
The #2 seed faces Feliciano Lopez in the final, both storming to straight sets triumphs, for their first meeting in five years – and the pair will clash again at next week’s Wimbledon.
Simon said: “It’s always a strange situation, but I just have to focus on the first match.
“It’s going to be a tough match, he’s a very good grass court player and he has played a great tournament until now. I hope I will play the same kind of tennis as today.”
The 28-year-old from Nice has a 10-3 record in ATP World Tour finals but has yet to claim a grass court title, seeking to become the second French Eastbourne winner in four years by following in the footsteps of Michael Llodra’s 2010 success story.