Marin Cilic will contest his third Grand Slam final as he dismantled Kyle Edmund, 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2, in the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Roger Federer, victor in their meeting in the final of Wimbledon last year or the rising Hyeon Chung await in Sunday’s final.
The Croatian will enter the top three in the world for the first time in his career, leaving only a French Open final to complete his collection.
Edmund, meanwhile, will reflect on a memorable fortnight in Melbourne where he claimed the scalps of Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov, but he paid a price for his endeavors as he struggled physically throughout the two hours and twenty minutes contest with the Croatian.
“I noticed in the third game of the third set when I broke him, he let a couple of balls go,” noted Cilic courtside after the match.
“I was seeing he was a bit restricted and I tried to move him around. He’s played great tennis but he played a couple of tough five-setters and a four-setter here, and it definitely left scars on his body.”
Decisive opening frame
Edmund was even able to display the more aggressive side of his persona, becoming embroiled in a spat with the umpire John Blom after a contentious line-call.
The British number two, who would have moved ahead of the incumbent Andy Murray with the victory, demanded a talk with the supervisor and when his complaints fell on deaf ears he returned to the court a revitalized figure.
That, however, would be the highlight of Edmund’s display, as he very rarely scaled the heights he did against Dimitrov in the previous round.
He held a pair of break points in the opening service game of the match but he was thwarted by the ground game of Cilic. Both players settled nicely despite Edmund being called for a rare foot-fault.
The Croatian targeted Edmund’s weaker wing - the backhand - and he found joy when he broke for a 4-2 advantage, benefitting from a net chord on his second break point.
The opening set was sealed up inside 35 minutes when Cilic confirmed the double break of serve. An exquisite cross-court return prompted a tempting mid-court groundstroke from Edmund and the world number four unloaded on a forehand winner.
The Brit exited the court to receive medical attention after the bruising opening set but set two was undoubtedly a tighter affair.
Edmund constructed a 15-30 opportunity after his encounter with the umpire but Cilic reeled off three straight points to hold. A tie-break - Cilic’s eighth of the tournament - would have to separate the duo.
The Croatian lost a narrow one to Nadal in the quarterfinals but he wasn’t prepared to let a two-set lead slip through his fingers. A mini-break was forged out by Cilic after he prevailed in a backhand exchange and he took a commanding two-set lead after an hour and five minutes of topsy-turvy tennis.
The last player to overturn a two-set deficit against the burly Croatian was Juan Martin del Potro in the final of the Davis Cup in 2016 and after he broke in the fourth game of the set the writing was on the wall for Edmund.
He battled, fending off a break point that would have stretched Cilic’s lead to 5-1, but he only served to delay the inevitable. The double break arrived soon after and when the Brit could only bunt a return into the net on match point the euphoria belonged to Cilic.