YORKSHIRE’S Kyle Edmund made sure he soaked up the enormity of his achievements after stunning third seed Grigor Dimitrov to reach his first grand slam semi-final.
The 23-year-old continued his remarkable exploits at the Australian Open by defeating Dimitrov 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 to become just the sixth British man in the Open era to reach the last four in singles at a slam.
It was the first time Edmund has beaten a top-10 player, and he saved the landmark for the biggest stage of all.
His surprise opponent is Marin Cilic after Rafael Nadal retired during the deciding set of their quarter-final with a hip problem.
A delighted Edmund said: “I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing. I’m 23 years old and in my first grand slam semi-final.
“First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world and to beat a quality of player like Grigor provides great feelings. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as possible. I knew I was in a good place. There’s no reason why my tennis wasn’t good enough to win. It’s obviously about going out there and doing it.”
Edmund joked that he now knows what it feels like to be Andy Murray after carrying British hopes through the tournament and all the attention that comes with that.
Murray has made five finals at Melbourne Park and Edmund aims to follow in his footsteps, adding: “You just dream of lots of things. It’s all a dream. Until it becomes a reality, then it really hits you. “You dream of playing in grand slams, first of all. I’ve done that. Hitting with the top guys, I remember being a practice partner for Andy and Rafa and Roger (Federer) to warm them up. Then suddenly you’re actually playing these guys. At first, it’s a bit surreal. Then you take it in your stride. That competitive instinct comes in. You want to beat them.
“A dream was to play for my country. I’ve done that. But, of course, the big one is to be in grand slam finals. Obviously a dream is to win them.”
Edmund was born in South Africa but moved to Tickton, near Beverley, as a three-year-old with his parents.
The Pocklington School and Bevereley Grammar pupil did not begin to play tennis until 10 at Beverley and East Riding Lawn Tennis Club. He moved to the David Lloyd Rackets and Fitness Centre in Hull before attending a tennis academy in Buckinghamshire.
Edmund had every reason to be confident yesterday, having survived long battles and extreme heat to make it through to the last eight. He also knew he could match Dimitrov having twice come close to beating him, most recently earlier this month in Brisbane.
Edmund made the perfect start to his debut on Rod Laver Arena with a break of the Dimitrov serve and, although the Bulgarian broke back, a brutal swing of the Edmund forehand at 4-4 earned him the chance to serve for the set.
Last season, Edmund had a bad habit of being broken at such moments but he has been improved on the big points this tournament and so it continued as he saved three break points.
You dream of playing in grand slams, first of all. I’ve done that. Hitting with the top guys, I remember being a practice partner for Andy and Rafa and Roger (Federer) to warm them up. Then suddenly you’re actually playing these guys.Kyle Edmund
He could not recover a poor start to the second but pounced again in the third, showing hitherto unseen abilities at the net and taking advantage of Dimitrov’s serving woes.
By the fourth, the third seed looked decidedly ragged and a wild forehand gave Edmund the chance to serve for the match, which he gleefully accepted.
On his nerves, Edmund said: “We just talked about it with my coach. It’s totally normal to feel nervous. As an emotion, as a human being, it’s normal. I just accepted that and had things in place to deal with it.
“The match in Brisbane (against Dimitrov) was tight with not too much in it. Today was similar. In the key moments I stepped up well and was brave, really went for my shots, and they came good. I believed that I could pull off some good stuff.”
For Dimitrov, this was a huge chance missed, but he was full of praise for his opponent. “I am disappointed,” he said. “It hurts, and so it should. Kyle deserves all the respect. He deserved to win. He’s been working so hard the past months. I’ve seen that.
“I take full responsibility for my match. There’s no point for me to say what I did wrong because I can sit here and talk about it, but it’s all about him right now. He’s the winner.”
The world No 1 looked to be on his way to yet another grand slam semi-final when he moved two sets to one in front but he called for the trainer after going a break down in the fourth set.
Nadal – last year’s beaten finalist – took a medical time-out but was clearly hampered in his movement and, after limping around the court for two games at the start of the fifth set, he headed to the net to shake hands.
The 3-6 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 2-0 victory gave Cilic a first victory over Nadal since 2009 and sent him through to his first Australian Open semi-final since defeat by Murray in 2010.