MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - A business-like Marin Cilic defused the firepower of Kyle Edmund before crushing the ailing Briton 6-2 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to reach his first Australian Open tennis final on Thursday (Jan 25).
The sixth-seeded Croat was relentless under the lights at Rod Laver Arena, unleashing a barrage of 32 winners to end the world No. 49's dream run with a stinging defeat in two hours and 18 minutes.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, will meet the winner of the second semi-final on Friday between 19-time Grand Slam singles winner and world No. 2 Roger Federer and unseeded world No. 58 South Korean Chung Hyeon for the title.
He will also enjoy two full days off after his centre-court cakewalk which left the largely pro-Edmund crowd cold on a hazy, moist evening.
Everything is in a "good, solid spot", said the confident Croat, who will contest his third grand slam final after being thrashed by Federer at Wimbledon in 2017.
"I'm playing much, much more aggressive," the 29-year-old told reporters. "I'm feeling that I am, for most of the shots, hitting them really, really good... Feeling really excited about the final, too."
It was hard to disagree with the 1.98m Cilic, who put on a masterclass of clean hitting and was virtually unplayable on his first serve.
An agitated Edmund took a medical time-out after losing the first set and hobbled through the latter part of the match before surrendering meekly after a massive serve from the rangy Cilic.
He lost his temper at 2-2, arguing with the umpire heatedly after Cilic was awarded a point on a challenge.
"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 tie-break.
But from there the big Croatian played with sublime control, landing a pinpoint serve to claim three set points. Edmund saved one but Cilic was soon roaring in celebration, a backhand winner down the line closing it out.
It looked bad for the Briton, who began hobbling when in pursuit of Cilic's raids on his backhand. Tossed around like a rag doll across the court, Edmund was broken at 1-1 when he netted a weak retrieve.
It prompted only a quiet fist pump from Cilic, who knuckled down to break him again at 4-2. An 11th ace and a volley put him a point from the finish before he wound up his serve one last time to end Edmund's misery.
It looked like a groin injury that did it for the Briton, but he refused to play the sympathy card.
"Yeah, there's something, but whatever," said the man who upset third seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals.
"I'm definitely disappointed about it, but it's one of those things where I have to look at the whole week.
"It's been so good... One of the biggest tournaments of the world, and making a good run and beating top players."