Kyle breaks new ground
Great Britain has a male semi-finalist at the Australian Open, and his name is Kyle Edmund.
In Andy Murray’s absence, Edmund has assumed the mantle of British hope with supreme confidence, and on Tuesday afternoon he claimed the win of his career against Grigor Dimitrov, beating the No.3 seed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last four at Melbourne Park.
“Now I know how it feels to be Andy Murray for the past eight years,” quipped Edmund, who has been the sole remaining Brit in either singles draw since Johanna Konta bowed out in the second round.
“It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. It’s a good problem to have, so the more I keep winning the better.”
With a tournament-leading 127 winners coming from it this tournament, Edmund’s cannon forehand has been firmly established as one of the fiercest weapons on the tour, and it was the key to victory here, breaching Dimitrov’s defences time and time again on Rod Laver Arena.
Indeed, it was that stroke that dealt the crucial blow at 4-4 in the first set, with Edmund running around a Dimitrov second serve before unleashing a thunderous return to break. The Brit quickly consolidated, and returned to his chair one set to the good.
After unconvincing performances in the first three rounds, Dimitrov looked to have found his rhythm in the fourth with an exhilarating victory over Nick Kyrgios.
But the Bulgarian was decidedly off-colour here, and although he recalibrated to take the second set 6-3, Edmund remained consistent, remained strong and, crucially, remained devastating on his forehand wing.
In the third set, Edmund again consolidated after grabbing the crucial break at 4-4, putting himself within touching distance of a first Grand Slam semi-final.
Now on the brink, Dimitrov fought desperately to turn the tide in the fourth set, breaking back after losing his serve at 2-3.
But he just couldn't sustain a high enough level to knock Edmund off his stride. And if he hadn’t realised already, it became clear that today was not Dimitrov’s day at 4-4 in the fourth set.
Serving at 15-30 down, the world No.3 pulled the trigger on a backhand that appeared to catch the line. Or did it? Edmund challenged, Hawk-eye zoomed in and...froze, seemingly affected by the tension as neither IN nor OUT appeared on the screen.
The entire stadium held its breath. Eventually, Hawk-eye made its mind up, declaring the ball out by the narrowest of whiskers.
Edmund took the second of his resulting break points, and suddenly found himself serving for a place in the semi-finals.
At match point, Hawk-eye was again called upon, with Dimitrov challenging after his backhand slice was called out.
Fearing another nerve-fraying delay, Edmund clasped his hand to his mouth, his heart surely threatening to burst out of his chest.
But again, Hawk-eye delivered, sending the world No.49 into the uncharted territory of a Grand Slam semi-final, where he will face either Rafael Nadal or Marin Cilic.
Mertens' dream debut continues
Australian Open debutant Elise Mertens announced herself as a serious contender for the singles title after demolishing No.4 seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to reach the semi-finals.
Svitolina, who would later reveal she was hampered by a hip injury picked up in Brisbane, struggled to deal with her opponent’s booming game throughout, falling 5-2 behind in the opening set.
The Ukrainian did mount a comeback effort, though, recovering for 4-5 after Mertens had got tight when attempting to serve out the set.
Indeed, the biggest threat to Mertens was posed by her own temperament. When the 22-year-old got nervous - understandable given the magnitude of the occasion - she became passive, allowing Svitolina back in.
But she world No.37 composed herself to claim the opener, taking it 6-4 after Svitolina skewed a forehand wide.
And she accelerated away from her opponent in the second set, playing flawless tennis to seal what she would brand the biggest win of her fledgling career.
“She's a great mover. She can do great things, defense but also offensive,” said Mertens.
“I guess this is one of my greater wins. I was in the zone today. It was a really great match. I played really well, so I'm really happy.”
A student at the Kim Clijsters’ Academy, Mertens is the first Belgian to reach this stage of the Australian Open since Clijsters herself in 2012, and looks capable of reviving her country’s glory days.
She awaits either Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro, who face off on Rod Laver Arena in the night session.