ATP London first round preview: Feliciano Lopez vs Marin Cilic

2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic will be looking for some matches under his belt going into Wimbledon. The fifth-seeded Croat has reached two finals in 2016 at 250 events losing to Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka in Marseille and Geneva, respectively.

Feliciano Lopez is Cilic's first round opponent at the Aegon Championships and both players will be looking for their first wins on the grass courts after suffering straight set first round losses in Stuttgart to Radek Stepanek and Mikhail Youzhny, respectively.

Lopez's defeat to Youzhny was slightly understandable as Lopez was in Paris on Saturday, winning his first Grand Slam men's doubles title with compatriot Marc Lopez at the French Open.

Cilic is the 2012 champion at the Aegon Championships and he was a runner-up the following year, losing to Andy Murray in three sets.

The Croat's triumph in 2012 was controversial as he was set down to 2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian before he was victorious moments after Nalbandian got defaulted for kicking an advertising board, which had injured a line judge.

Lopez has been a finalist at Queen's in his own right, as he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the final back in 2014 as all three sets went to tiebreaks and the veteran Spaniard failed to convert a match point that he had in the second set.

Cilic has the game to win Wimbledon as under the tutelage of former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, he should be a big mental help to get him over the line. 

Cilic's average year

The fifth seed here in London has participated in 11 events on tour this year with plenty of early exits.

The tall Croat began his year in Brisbane and he lost to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. This was followed by a third round showing at the Australian Open losing to Roberto Bautista Agut, which Cilic would have been understandably disappointed with.

More disappointment wasn't far away for Cilic as he received a bye at the Open Sud de France but lost to Alexander Zverev in his opening match, followed by a loss to another German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals of Rotterdam.

During the North American back-to-back Masters 1000 hard court swing in March, Cilic lost to David Goffin in the quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and Gilles Simon in the third round of the Miami Open.

Cilic hardly had any preparation for the French Open as he skipped the Mutua Madrid Open and BNL Internazionali d'Italia due to injury. Despite that, he reached the final in Geneva, losing to Wawrinka, but he did gain an impressive win over clay court specialist David Ferrer along the way.

Misery continued for Cilic as he lost to Marco Trungeletti in the first round of the French Open and lost to veteran Radek Stepanek in his last outing at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart last week.

Feliciano Lopez in action at the French Open (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski / Source : Getty Images)
Feliciano Lopez in action at the French Open (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski / Source : Getty Images)

Their history

Lopez and Cilic have faced each other five times on the ATP World Tour and on all on surfaces. Cilic edges their head-to-head 3-2. Lopez won their first match a decade ago in a semifinal match in Gstaad on clay with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 scoreline.

Cilic won their second meeting three years later on hard courts in the quarterfinals in Vienna, which he won in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. Lopez's second and most recent victory over Cilic was in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome in 2010, which the veteran Spaniard won 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Cilic has won their two recent meetings, the first being at the Aegon Championships in 2013 which the then defending champion won 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 in a close affair and in the second round of the Western and Southern Open back in 2014 which Cilic won 6-3, 6-4.

Who wins?

Cilic enjoys playing at the Aegon Championships as he has reached two finals here, including winning a title under controversial circumstances.

Both players have grass court pedigree as in Cilic's last two outings at the All England Club he's reached the quarterfinals, losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic on both occasions. 

Lopez is also a former quarterfinalist at Wimbledon reaching that stage three times losing to 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in 2005, former two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin in 2008 and Andy Murray in 2011.

Both players have big serves which work nicely on the grass and it is the former champion Cilic who desperately needs a win as he hasn't won a match in almost a full month.

Lopez will be full of confidence after his triumph at the French Open even though he lost to Youzhny in Stuttgart. There are no easy matches here in Queen's as the winner of this match will play former top ten players Janko Tipsarevic or the 2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Prediction: Cilic in three sets.