Spain’s Feliciano Lopez finally ended the wait for a first Aegon Championships title with victory over Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the final.
Lopez, 35, saved a match point to win 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (10-8) at Queen’s.
The Spaniard missed a match point against Grigor Dimitrov in the 2014 final, but got his hands on the trophy at the 12th time of asking.
“I cannot believe that I have finally won this trophy,” world number 32 Lopez told BBC Sport.
“I have been waiting for so long, 15 or 16 years, to be here holding this trophy.”
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Lopez holds his nerve
Both men had dropped serve only once on their way through the draw and the final was, predictably, a match of fleeting opportunities that came down to a deciding tie-break.
Lopez saw two match points slip by before taking his third after two hour and 31 minutes.
The grass-court specialist had said before the match how much the tournament means to him, and flew his parents in from Spain on Sunday morning to watch the final.
Cilic, 28, would end the week having lost just that one service game, and none in the final, but after edging the opening set he could not capitalise on an early chance in the second.
Lopez kept pace with Cilic as serve dominated, and got the better of two contrasting tie-breaks.
He raced into a 6-1 lead in the first, levelling at one set all when Cilic found the tramlines, and then held his nerve in a dramatic decider.
Lopez lunged to his left and volleyed into the open court to save the first match point of the tie-break, and then saw Cilic save one with his 22nd ace, and a second – on Lopez’s serve – with a volley.
It was Cilic who finally cracked, hooking a forehand wide and prompting an emotional Lopez to head into the crowd to celebrate with his team and family.
‘I am playing my best tennis’
Lopez claimed his sixth career title and took his record on grass this season to 9-1, having finished runner-up in Stuttgart last week.
“I thought at the end of the tie-break, after missing match points, that I was not going to be able to make it,” said Lopez.
“It is tough to put the match where I lost to Dimitrov out of my mind. I was serving for the match again and it was difficult to handle my nerves but I managed it.
“It is tough to believe at 35 that I am playing my best tennis, but I think I am.”
Cilic will head into Wimbledon hopeful of improving on three successive quarter-final places, with a likely seeding of six.
He said: “It was a really high level of tennis and it was a pleasure to play. It was an amazing match.
“I had chances in the second set to get a break up but Feliciano played very well. He always plays well on grass and he deserves the title.
“I played great tennis this week and I enjoyed every single day. It was great preparation for Wimbledon.”
John Lloyd, former British number one and 1977 Australian Open finalist:
They are both so sharp right now. Apart from the physical recovery, they would like to play Wimbledon tomorrow. They are peaking.
Cilic didn’t lose his serve today and lost the title. He did everything he could but it came down to one point.
Peter Fleming, seven-time Grand Slam doubles champion:
I’m amazed that they played as well as they did. There were so few unforced errors. It was an incredibly high-quality match.
It is a dream for Feliciano Lopez to be 35 and playing his best tennis. He won’t want to wake up.