Kyle Edmund's epic Australian Open journey came to end on Thursday, after sixth seed Marin Cilic beat the unseeded Briton in straight sets after a 6-2, 7-6 (6-4), 6-2 in his semi-final on Rod Laver Area at Melbourne Park.
Cilic is into his third career major final and will seek his second slam on Sunday.
The Croat was in control throughout as he became the first man from his native land to reach the final in Melbourne. He will face the winner of the second semi between Hyeon Chung and Roger Federer on Friday.
Cilic dominant in opening set
With both men seeking their first final in Melbourne, it was the underdog Edmund who came out the stronger, holding a 15-40 lead on Cilic's serve to open up the match. Huge serving eventually got the Croat out of trouble and on the board with a hold.
It was the former US Open champion's turn to see break points and in the sixth game, he converted to take a 4-2 lead. A challenging game on serve followed, but the sixth seed again called on his big serve to escape danger and take a 5-2 lead.
The Brit had been dominant on his forehand all fortnight long, leading the tournament with 127 winners on that side, but at 30-30, he badly miscued one to give Cilic a set point, duly taken when the Croat fired a winner of off that side to wrap up a fairly comfortable opening set.
Croat takes two-set lead
Edmund received treatment for an injury to his upper left leg following the first set, but any effects of that didn't show early in the second set as he matched Cilic hold for hold. Soon though, the world number 49 was under pressure again, a break point come and gone with an ace from Edmund.
The mild-mannered Edmund proceeded to protest a call after Cilic was awarded the opening point of the fourth game following a challenge. After consulting with the referee, the Brit dropped his argument. No matter and the Brit went on matching the Croat hold for hold.
A slight opening in the ninth game for Edmund at 15-30, the Brit netting after Cilic's backhand clipped the tape and landed in. After holding twice to stay in the set, a tiebreak ensued with the first six points going the server's way.
Cilic grabbed the first minibreak with a forehand down the line for a 4-3 lead and two points later, he was on the cusp of a two-set lead. After an error gave Edmund a reprieve on the first set point, the Croat was in no mood to donate any more points and a backhand finished the job, putting Cilic in complete control.
Weary Edmund succumbs as Cilic storms into the final
With all the tennis the 49th-ranked Edmund has played, it was only a matter of time before he felt fatigued and he was predictably broken in the third game as the finish line was in sight for the Croat now. A comfortable hold and a break chance in the fifth game have Cilic smelling blood, but credit to the Brit as he holds to stay within touching distance.
The match as a contest was over in the seventh game as the gritty but worn-down Edmund fought through four deuces only to see his serve breached one final time. Serving for the match at 5-2, he held to fifteen, a swinging serve on match point whizzing past the Brit and confirming his place in the final.
Cilic looked every bit the favorite as he handled the situation of being expected to win perfectly. He played well and this victory now moves him up to a career-high #3 in the world on Monday. He'll want to show a better performance on Sunday than in the Wimbledon final last year against Federer, when blisters and an emotional meltdown got the best of him. If he plays at this level, he's surely got a good chance to lift his second major trophy.
Edmund has nothing to be ashmed of. His run to his first career major semifinal was nothing short of brilliant. He withstood long matches, brutal heat and upset Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov along the way. The predictable nerves that a first-time major semifinalist feels plus fatigue set in, but with Cilic on fire, there may have been very little he could have done, anyway. With Andy Murray out of action until the spring, Edmund will get his chance to build on his great run in Melbourne and establish himself as the top-ranked Brit in the coming months.