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Cilic sets up half of men's final; Halep, Wozniacki to clash for women's crown

Bill Scott, DPA on

Published in Tennis

MELBOURNE -- 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.

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 for the trophy on Saturday.

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

The winner of the final will hold the No. 1 ranking after they're announced Monday.

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

The Croatian sixth seed 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 gone this far at the event.

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 saved two Kerber match points in dramatic fashion while her opponent did the same in the match lasting for two hours, 20 minutes.

Halep is into her first Melbourne final after losing Roland Garros 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."

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 raced through the first set after moving 5-0 up, and in the final set was 3-1 and 5-3 up. But Kerber roared back, saving two match points at 5-4 and then going up 6-5. Then it was her turn to see a pair of match points saved by Halep who broke for 6-6.

Halep finally prevailed in the 16th game for 9-7 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," the former No. 1 added.

Like Halep, second seed 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 two and a half hours, leading 5-4 and 30-0 but losing serve for 5-5.

Two games later, she saved two Mertens set points to force a tiebreaker, which she won on the first of four match points as the Belgian hit the net.

"I think I was nervous, I didn't do much wrong for the first three points of that (10th) game," Wozniacki said.

"I served two good serves, then I had that forehand down the line which I missed by a couple of millimeters. It was 30-15 instead of 40-Love. All of a sudden, yeah, it just turned around.

"But I managed to just gather myself and thankfully closed it out in the end."

(c)2018 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

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