When Kyle Edmund reflects back on his maiden Grand Slam semi-final against Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the Australian Open, he will have noted two very important lessons. Firstly, that his physical conditioning is still quite a way short of the top players, and secondly, he needs to ensure that he does not get carried away with the occasion in future big matches, which the 23-year-old will undoubtedly contest throughout his career. The Brit crashed out of the tournament with a 6-2 7-6 6-2 defeat today, in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena. Despite what the score line suggests, Edmund had his chances to trouble Cilic, especially in the second set. But the Croat gave Edmund a lesson in how to handle a high-profile Grand Slam match, and offered a glimpse of the talent and quality that the Yorkshireman can also display, if he applies himself correctly following this defeat.
The match had several defining moments, none more so than Cilic’s hold of serve in the first game. Finding himself 15-40 down following an early onslaught from Edmund, Cilic rallied and won the game. He bullied Edmund from the baseline, and did not allow the Brit to get any rhythm during the match. In response, Edmund elected to serve wide at every opportunity, which played into Cilic’s hands. The Croat broke the Brit at 3-2 in the first set, and raced to claim the set before Edmund could get a foothold.
What followed in the second set was a bizarre turn of events, which could easily have swayed the match in Edmund’s favour. At 2-2 on Cilic’s serve, Edmund vehemently contested a decision by umpire John Blom. Blom had declared that with hawk-eye ruling that Cilic’s first serve was in, it was Cilic’s point. This was despite the fact that Edmund had clearly hit the ball before the call had been made, which should have ruled it as a first-serve and point replayed. The spat reinvigorated Edmund, who had gone flat in the opening stages of the second set, and looked deflated. He began attacking Cilic from the back of the court, taking his anger out on the ball and giving the world #6 a taste of his own medicine.
But Cilic would show his class in the second set tiebreak. When the pressure was on, the Croat displayed some incredible hitting, going for the lines and forcing Edmund into errors. His serving was also impeccable. Despite Edmund boasting a higher overall first-serve percentage, Cilic converted more points on his first serve than his opponent, and his serves were more effective at opening up the court. This was one of the deciding features of both the second-set tiebreak, and the match as a whole.
The third set followed a similar pattern to the first. Edmund was visibly tired, for Cilic’s tactics had worn him out both mentally and physically, and Cilic broke early again in the third set to give himself the edge from the outset. The world #6 and 2014 US Open champion then fittingly converted his match point at 5-2 with an unreturnable serve.
Marin Cilic taught Kyle Edmund a lesson in Grand Slam tennis. If the Brit is to advance to the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments in the future, he will need to apply the aggression that saw him force a second-set tiebreak more consistently. Moreover, he will need to work on the physical aspect of his game, as well as his mental toughness. Both players can look back on their fortnight with pride. In Cilic’s case, he has shown that he still has the pedigree of a Grand Slam champion, and is ready to add a second Grand Slam to his name in Melbourne. For Edmund, this fortnight will have taught him a lot about how far he has come in the past few months, and how far he still needs to go if he wants to take his game to the next level.
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