Cilic joins elite group by reaching Australian Open final

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Cilic joins elite group by reaching Australian Open final
Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates after taking the second set against Britain's Kyle Edmund during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Marin Cilic has joined an elite group at the season-opening Grand Slam, becoming just the second man outside the so-called Big Four to reach the Australian Open final in a decade.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have dominated the finals here since 2009, with only 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka breaking the quartet’s court occupation in the men’s championship match.

After his 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-2 semifinal win over No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, Cilic could face one of the Big Four on Sunday night. That’s if defending champion Roger Federer can get past Hyeon Chung on Friday night.

“Now I have two days off — it’s going to be a nice one on Sunday,” he said.

Cilic lost to Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, but beat the Swiss star on the way to his own Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in 2014.

The 29-year-old Cilic was under pressure early against Edmund and had to fend off break points in the opening game. He held and quickly got on top in the first set and, after maintaining his composure in a nervy second set tiebreaker, quickly established a break in the third set against the tiring British player.

“I think in that second set, I was just a little up and down with my game. I wasn’t getting enough returns back to put pressure on him in his service games,” Cilic said. “I noticed that in the third game in third set, when I broke him, he just let a couple balls go past him. … I was seeing with this movement he was a little bit restricted so I just tried to move the ball around.”

Cilic didn’t face another break point after the opening game and took advantage of his experience, while Edmund got heated in his first major semifinal, arguing with the chair umpire over a call in the fifth game of the second set and demanding the tournament supervisor come onto court to explain the ruling.

Wins over U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson in the first round and in the quarterfinal over No. 3-seeded Grigor Dimitrov took a toll on Edmund, but Cilic praised him for a breakthrough major.

“He’s playing great tennis, last couple years he improved a lot.” Cilic said. “He had an extremely tough run to the semis, couple five setters and four setters, as well. Definitely it left some scars on his body. I can feel that, too.”

It took Cilic 10 attempts to reach the final in Australia, equaling an Open era record held by Kim Wawrick. He lost a semifinal in 2010 to Murray, and said he benefited from the experience.