Australian Open: Marin Cilic, Halep, Wozniacki Reach First Final
Marin Cilic defeated Kyle Edmund Briton 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2 to become Croatia’s first Australian Open finalist.
A business-like Marin Cilic defused the firepower of Kyle Edmund before crushing the ailing Briton 6-2 7-6(4) 6-2 to become Croatia's first Australian Open finalist on Thursday, 25 January.
The sixth seed had won his quarter-final when Rafa Nadal retired hurt in the fifth set, and was again ruthless against a hobbled opponent, ending the 49th-ranked Briton's dream run after just two hours and 18 minutes under the lights at Rod Laver Arena.
Sealing the match with a thumping serve, the 2014 US champion will bid for his second grand slam title against the winner of Roger Federer and South Korea's rising star Chung Hyeon.
He will enjoy two full days off after his centre court cakewalk which left the largely pro-Edmund crowd cold on a hazy, moist evening.
An agitated Edmund took a medical time-out after losing the first set and slowed noticeably in the third, labouring in vain to keep pace with Cilic's baseline missiles.
It was a deflating ending for a match that began with promise when the 23-year-old came out in a blaze of shot-making to grab break points off the Croatian. The rangy Cilic had all the replies, however, and studiously avoided Edmund's bazooka forehand as much as he could.
Given little latitude to work on his favoured side, a frustrated Edmund unravelled in the sixth game. He slapped a backhand into the net tape and the rebound sent it wide, allowing Cilic the first service break.
There was no tightness in the Cilic's game, and he calmly broke Edmund again, wrapping up the set in 35 minutes with a rocketed forehand to the corner.
Edmund had only a single forehand winner to that point and he exited the court for a medical time-out. He returned still troubled of mind, and shouted "No!" at himself after bashing into the net when serving at 2-1.
The Briton lost his temper at 15-0 in the following game, arguing with the umpire heatedly over a line call on Cilic's serve.
"Get the referee, I'm not having it," he snapped before being flat-batted by the second match official.
The blow-up seemed to help as he served out to love and kept snapping at Cilic's heels all the way to a tiebreak.
But from there the big Croatian played with sublime control, ratcheting up the pressure with an overhead smash and landing a pinpoint serve out wide to have three set points in a hurry.
Edmund saved one but moments later Cilic was roaring in celebration, after lacing a backhand winner down the line to move within a set of the final.
It looked bad for Edmund, who began hobbling in vain pursuit of Cilic's raids on his backhand.
At 1-1, having been tossed around like a rag doll across the court, Edmund was broken again, slicing a weak retrieve into the net.
Cilic quietly pumped his fist as the crowd was subdued and he quietened the terraces further by breaking the Briton again at 4-2.
An 11th ace and a volley put Cilic a point from the finish before he wound up his serve one last time to put Edmund out of his misery.
Halep Beats Kerber
World number one Simona Halep quelled a tenacious Angelique Kerber fightback and saved two match points to reach her first Australian Open final with a riveting 6-3 4-6 9-7 victory on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
A wildly unpredictable match veered one way, then the other, before the Romanian ended Kerber's resistance on her fourth match point in a spellbinding deciding set that pushed both players to the limit of their endurance.
Former champion Kerber, who won only five points in losing the opening five games, was jelly-legged at times but fought off two match points in the 10th game of the third set before seeing two of her own come and go two games later.
In the end Halep's insatiable desire for a maiden grand slam title proved the greater force as an exhausted Kerber struck a backhand over the baseline.
Halep will now face Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in the first Australian Open final between two players still chasing a first major since 1980. On top of that the showdown between the top two seeds will have the number one ranking on the line.
"I feel happy. I feel proud that I could stay there and fight till the end," said Halep who has fought for 12 hours and 16 minutes to reach her third grand slam final and saved match points against American Lauren Davis in a third-round epic.
"I tried to be calm but today I was like a rollercoaster, up and down. But I was not afraid of losing, so maybe that's why I won those match points."
She will need to dredge the depths of her energy reserves against Wozniacki if she is to join the grand slam winners' circle after falling at the last hurdle twice in Paris.
"If it's going to come, it's going to come," added the 26-year-old.
Wozniacki Survives Scare
Caroline Wozniacki came through a late bout of nerves to reach the Australian Open final for a first time with a 6-3 7-6(2) victory over Belgian Elise Mertens, giving herself another shot at winning a maiden grand slam title.
The Dane, who has fallen at the final hurdle at the 2009 US Open and again in 2014, will meet top seed Simona Halep in Saturday's final, with both the title and the world number one ranking going to the winner.
Following last year's US Open title match between champion Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, the Melbourne Park decider will be the second consecutive grand slam final featuring two players bidding for their first major trophy.
However, it will be the first time it has happened in Australia since Hana Mandlikova won her maiden slam against home hope Wendy Turnbull back in 1980.
Wozniacki dominated her second Melbourne Park semi-final until she was 5-4, 30-0 up and serving for the match against Mertens but suddenly faltered with a pair of double-faults to allow her 22-year-old opponent back into the contest.
Mertens, playing only her fifth grand slam, took full advantage and, unleashing a string of winners, broke the former world number one and even racked up two set points.
Unlike in her 2011 semi-final against Li Na, when she blew a match point, Wozniacki was able to recover her composure and saved them both on the back of a couple of booming serves.
After four deuces, the 27-year-old held with a thumping forehand then raced away with the ensuing tiebreak.
It was a relief for the Dane, who admitted to being haunted for years by her semi-final loss against China's Li.
"I mean, we're seven years on and it's still there," she told reporters with a wry smile.
"I think that's the one that's been most disappointing to me throughout my career... That's one of the ones that hurt extra because it was going into the finals of a grand slam."
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