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Tennis: Gasquet sets up Eastbourne grass final with Lopez

French top seed Richard Gasquet moved to within one win of a hat-trick of grasscourt titles at the Eastbourne International on Friday as he defeated Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-2 to reach his third career final at the tournament.

EASTBOURNE: French top seed Richard Gasquet moved to within one win of a hat-trick of grasscourt titles at the Eastbourne International on Friday as he defeated Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-2 to reach his third career final at the tournament.

The world number 14, who missed almost all of the claycourt season with a back injury, is back on form as he prepares for Wimbledon with his second title match of the season.

He will now test his improving form after a spring back injury in a Saturday final with holder Feliciano Lopez, who beat American Sam Querry 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) with a dozen aces and one break of serve in 77 minutes.

Gasquet leads his head-to-head series with Lopez 5-0 as the pair meet on grass for the first time.

Gasquet lifted back-to-back trophies in 2005 and 2006 when the event was held in Nottingham and is keen to pick up where he left off eight years ago.

Gasquet beat Istomin for a third time in four meetings, taking just 71 minutes to go through with three aces and three breaks of the Uzbek's serve.

Gasquet, who has won 10 titles in his career, moved into his 22nd career final and is fourth on grass.

"I played a good match today, it was important to play well because Denis is dangerous," said Gasquet. "I tried to serve well.

"The key on grass is to serve and return well, I managed to do it. I'm very happy with the way I played, because it's always difficult to play on grass.

"Everything can happen, so you need to be strong on every point. I can now play every day. I have no injuries, no pain. It's important for me."

The men's semi-final line-up was completed a day late after Lopez beat France's Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-4 in a quarter-final which was unable to start on Thursday evening due to rain and impending darkness.

Lopez reached the grasscourt final last weekend at Queen's Club and has staked his pre-Wimbledon week on hopefully repeating as Eastbourne titleholder.

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