Australian Open 2018: Kyle Edmund on 'great opportunity' to reach final

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Kyle Edmund v Marin Cilic, Australian Open semi-final
Date: Thursday, 25 January Venue: Melbourne Park Time: 08:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 and live text commentary online from 08:00. Watch highlights on BBC Two at 16:45

Kyle Edmund will try to extend his remarkable Australian Open run and reach a first Grand Slam final when he takes on Marin Cilic on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Briton, ranked 49th, plays sixth seed Cilic in the Melbourne night session at 08:30 GMT.

Edmund is only the sixth British man to play in a major singles semi-final since tennis went professional in 1968.

There will be live text and radio commentary available on BBC Sport from 08:00.

"There's no reason why I can't go out there and put a good level on the court, enjoy the occasion again," said Edmund.

"A semis of a Grand Slam, it's a great feeling. I'll just try to take it in my stride as best as I can."

'The reaction has been amazing'

Kyle Edmund poses for a selfie while practising at the Australian Open
There were plenty of photographs taken at Edmund's practice session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday

Edmund joins fellow Britons Andy Murray, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, John Lloyd and Roger Taylor as a Grand Slam semi-finalist.

He received a congratulatory message from Murray after his quarter-final, while Henman was supporting from courtside in Melbourne.

Edmund has been video messaging his family in Yorkshire every day, and relatives in South Africa - where he was born - have been in regular contact.

His parents Steven and Denise, and sister Kelly, will not be in Melbourne for the semi-final but could fly out should Edmund reach the final.

"It's obviously been a lot more attention that I usually get, just loads more texts and messages on social media," said Edmund.

"The reaction has been amazing."

After relying on Murray for success at the top level of the game for so many years, British tennis finally has another male player in contention.

"I'm absolutely thrilled for him," said Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith.

"We have known him for such a long time, since he was 12, 13 years old. He's a great lad, a very balanced individual."

Why Edmund is now a 'daunting opponent'

Kyle Edmund-Marin Cilic graphic
While Kyle Edmund is into uncharted territory, Marin Cilic won the 2014 US Open and reached last year's Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer

Edmund came into the tournament unseeded, without an ATP final appearance to his name, and never having been past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

However, there are only four players younger than Edmund above him in the rankings and his powerful game meant he was a growing threat.

The difference in Melbourne has been stringing together five performances over the best-of-five format, starting with a career-best win against 11th seed Kevin Anderson in round one.

Edmund then saw off world number 60 Denis Istomin before a gruelling five-set win in 40C heat against Nikoloz Basilashvili, a comeback win over experienced Italian Andreas Seppi, and a stunning four-set defeat of third seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Improvements in the serve allied to what was already one of the biggest forehands in the game have made him a daunting opponent.

Edmund lost his only previous match against Cilic, the Croat winning in straight sets on hard courts in Shanghai last year, but the Briton looks like a different player three months on.

"It will be a great opportunity for me," said Edmund. "I guess I have that little bit of a taste of being on court with him.

"The place I'm in now is really good so I think, what I've been doing, I'll just try and carry on with that."

Tale of the tape at the 2018 Australian Open
EdmundCilic
Aces:78 (5th overall)96 (3rd overall)
Forehand winners:127 (1st overall)115 (2nd overall)
Points won at the net:53121 (1st overall)
Average first serve speed:114mph117mph
Service games won:89% (12th overall)90% (7th overall)
Return games won:26% (26th overall)25% (30th overall)
Serve and volleys:010
Time on court:14hrs 48mins14hrs 45mins

'On paper it's probably easier to play him than Rafa'

Cilic, 29, will be playing in his fifth major semi-final and is vastly more experienced than Edmund, chasing a second Grand Slam title after winning the 2014 US Open in spectacular style.

The Croat swept past Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori without dropping a set to win the title in New York, setting a standard he has since struggled to match.

He made it through to a second major final at Wimbledon last year, but injury prevented him from seriously challenging Federer.

Marin Cilic celebrates winning the 2014 US Open
Marin Cilic beat Kei Nisikori in the 2014 US Open final, having defeated Roger Federer in the last four

There have been signs of the 2014 New York form in recent days, Rafael Nadal's injury and eventual retirement in the fifth set of their quarter-final overshadowing what had been a powerful display from Cilic.

"For me, it's another good opportunity," said Clic, whose best effort to date in Melbourne was a semi-final place in 2010, when he lost to Murray.

"Obviously on paper it's probably easier to play him than Rafa. But still deserves to be here.

"A big focus is to continue with my own game. I cannot influence him much across the net, but I'm going to try to take care of my things on my part of the court."

Serve and forehand a strength of both players

Kyle Edmund
Kyle Edmund has hit more forehand winners than any other man at the 2018 Australian Open

The match pits two men with big serves and big forehands against one another, and it is likely to be an arm-wrestle for territory in the early stages.

Edmund leads the tournament for forehand winners on 127, with Cilic in second place on 115.

"I know I have a big shot in that," said Edmund.

"I know my game. It's nothing new to me. So I know what I need to do out there: go out there and work out ways to get my forehand, work out ways best how to use it."

The Briton spent much of his off-season working on improving his serve to earn more "cheap points", and it has paid dividends, but he is up against one the best in the game.

Cilic has 96 aces to Edmund's 78 and a faster average speed, but both men have lost their serve an average of once every 10 games in Melbourne.

One area the Croat is more comfortable is moving forward, but after averaging just three trips to the net through his first four rounds, Edmund made eight per set in his win over Dimitrov, a marked change of approach.

Analysis - 'A huge chance if he gets a good start'

Thomas Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, practised with Edmund 24 hours before the semi-final. The Swede told BBC Radio 5 live:

Kyle's looking great. He's hitting the ball very heavy, and you could easily see he's playing with a lot of confidence.

So far I'm very, very impressed with what he's achieved here. The amount of power that he can create from a ball that has no energy is quite amazing.

I think he serves a lot better now, I think he can be a little bit more aggressive and take the net more than he does.

He's hitting the ball so heavy, so hard, and as soon as he gets hold of the opponent with the forehand, it's lethal. But I know that's something they are working on.

If you asked me today, I would say he can definitely be a top-10 player.

Marin has been here before, won a Slam and knows what it's like to play a semi-final. The surface is quite fast and I think Marin is going to try to play very aggressively.

Marin has more experience but I know what Kyle is capable of. The start of the match is important, especially for Kyle, but if he can get a good start I think he has a huge chance.

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