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Marin Cilic stops Edmund, is first Croatian in Australian final

Marin Cilic stops Edmund, is first Croatian in Australian final
Marin Cilic serves during his Australian Open semifinal match against Kyle Edmund in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 25. (Julian Smith / EPA)

Marin Cilic overpowered Kyle Edmund 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 on Thursday to set up half of the weekend men’s final at the Australian Open.

Five-time champion Roger Federer and South Korean Chung Hyeon will face off Friday to determine the last piece of the puzzle for the Sunday title showdown.

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In the women’s draw, Simona Halep won a dramatic duel with former champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 to next face Caroline Wozniacki in Saturday’s final.

Halep, ranked No. 1 but without a Grand Slam title, will play an opponent also seeking her first major title after booking a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Belgian Elise Mertens.

The winner will hold the No. 1 ranking after they’re announced Monday.

Cilic will be playing his third Grand Slam final after winning the 2014 U.S. Open and losing to Federer at Wimbledon last summer.

The Croatian, seeded sixth, used his vast experience to control the eager Edmund, who made a habit of complaining about lights on the scoreboard and arguing with the chair umpire on a disputed point. The Brit also took an off-court medical timeout after dropping the opening set in 35 minutes.

None of that bothered Cilic, who calmly went about dismantling his 49th-ranked opponent.

His win marked the first time that any Croatian player had reached the Australian Open final.

Cilic finished off his rout with two breaks in the third set to advance comfortably.

“I feel very good,” Cilic said. “Especially in the second set I had to stay mentally focused and play every point. The tiebreak was crucial to keep up the pressure.

“I could see that Kyle’s movement was a little restricted, so I tried to move the ball around. I have two days off now. It will be a great final on Sunday.”

Halep dramatically saved two Kerber match points and her opponent did the same in a match lasting 2 hours 20 minutes.

Halep is into her first Melbourne final after losing French Open finals in 2014 and 2017.

“It was a very tough win, I’m shaking now,” Halep said. “I’m very emotional. Angie is a tough opponent, she moves so well and is hitting from everywhere.

“I’m glad I could resist.”

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The Romanian, who was bothered by an ankle injury during the early rounds, credited much of her victory to “confidence in myself.

“I told myself I would fight for every point during this event and then have a big rest afterwards. I tried to be very calm, but today was a roller coaster, up and down.

“I didn’t give up on even one ball. If you don’t give up you can win the match in the end. I did that and I’m proud of myself.”

Kerber, the 2016 Melbourne trophy-holder, had 33 winners to 50 for Halep, who broke on nine of 22 chances and dropped her own serve seven times.

Halep won the first five games in racing through the first set and in the final set held leads of 3-1 and 5-3. But Kerber roared back, saving two match points at 5-4 and then going up 6-5. Then it was her turn to see two match points saved by Halep, who broke for 6-6.

Halep finally prevailed in the 16th game when Kerber, who had saved another match point in that game, went long.

“At the end I was just trying to give everything that I had left,” Kerber said. “I was fighting until the last point.

“My heart was there. My heart was on the court, I know I’m back.”

Like Halep, the second-seeded Wozniacki will aim for a first Grand Slam title after twice losing U.S. Open finals.The Dane admitted she had trouble finishing off Mertens after almost 21/2 hours, leading 5-4 and 30-0 but losing serve for 5-5.

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