Cilic Seals His Spot In Australian Open Final
Croatian hits 32 winners, including 11 aces, for historic victory
Marin Cilic was superb on serve and played with great focus on Thursday night to become the first Croatian to reach the Australian Open final, which represents his third Grand Slam championship title match (also 2014 US Open, 2017 Wimbledon).
The 29-year-old, competing in a semi-final at Melbourne Park for the second time (also 2010), used his big-match experience at key moments to defeat Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2 in two hours and 18 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
"I think in the second set I was a bit up and down with my game and not getting enough returns back," Cilic told Jim Courier, in an on-court interview. "He started to serve quite good. I stayed mentally very focused and tried to play every single point. It was crucial in the tie-break to keep that pressure. I noticed in the third game in the third set, [that] he let a couple of balls go. I was seeing that his movement was restricted, so I was trying to move the ball around."
Sixth seed Cilic has reached the Australian Open final on his 10th appearance, equalling the Open Era record (since April 1968) of Kim Warwick. He awaits the winner of five-time champion Roger Federer, the second seed from Switzerland, and South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, who will play their semi-final on Friday night.
“I think overall, consistently, I'm playing better,” said Cilic. “I think I am performing better when you look at match after match. I think [at the 2014] US Open, I played just amazing tennis. But it was more difficult for me to keep it for a long period of time. Now I feel that with this kind of tennis, I can keep it throughout the season. That's my goal, at the end of the year, that I can look back and that I am happy about my performances at a consistent level.”
World No. 49 Edmund had been attempting to become the fourth British man to reach a Grand Slam championship final in the Open Era – after Andy Murray (11 finals), John Lloyd (1977 Australian Open) and Greg Rusedski (1997 US Open).
"Obviously, I'm just disappointed I lost, but it's been a really good couple of weeks for me," said Edmund. "I just got the experience of going deep in a [Grand] Slam for the first time and all the stuff that comes with it... I played a lot of tough matches, won some tough matches [and] beat good players. This type of tournament just gives you the bug to want more. I definitely go away from the whole week feeling positive."
How The Australian Open Semi-final Was Won
Cilic came under pressure immediately, falling to 15/40, largely because of two groundstroke errors. But Edmund, who had moved Cilic out from his favoured backhand corner, was unable to capitalise. Cilic grew in confidence to break to 30 in both the sixth and eighth games, courtesy of a backhand error from Edmund and a forehand winner for Cilic, his eighth of the 35-minute set. Edmund soon departed the court for a medical time-out, which lasted eight minutes. Cilic won 12 of his 14 first-serve points, including one ace.
“When playing in the semi-finals, when there is a lot at stake, and not losing a serve during the match is obviously big,” said Cilic. “I was two break points down in the first game, and those first three, four games were not the best level, but I think I… found my way and I played my way into the match.”
Edmund returned with greater focus and in the fifth game, when a line judge had called Cilic's serve wide, the 23-year-old challenged the Hawk-Eye decision that went his opponent’s way. Edmund believed the point should have been replayed and called for the referee, having claimed his return was affected by the call as he played the stroke. It fired the Briton up and the set was decided on a tie-break, which went with serve through the first six points until Edmund missed a forehand close to the net at 3/3. A focused Cilic, moving and serving well, soon roared with delight as he struck a stunning forehand winner for a two-sets-to-love advantage.
“We didn't hit too many balls off the back of the court,” said Cilic. “That second set was relying more or less on the serve and first shot to be in control. I played a great tie-break. [I was] very focused to win every single point.”
Pumped up and sensing an opportunity to hammer home his advantage, Cilic broke in the third game courtesy of a concentration lapse from Edmund, who was attempting to recover from a 0-2 set deficit for the first time. Despite an injury concern, Edmund continued to fight and saved a break point in the fifth game, but at 2-4, Cilic converted his second break point opportunity with a forehand winner. Moments later Cilic completed an historic victory. He also beat Edmund 6-3, 7-6(5) in October 2017 at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
Did You Know?
Cilic is 11th in the Infosys ATP Stats Leaderboards Serving Category for the past 52 weeks, with a serve rating of 284.0. Learn more