Britain's Kyle Edmund insists he is relishing the pressure of carrying the nation’s hopes after continuing his surprise emergence from the shadow of Andy Murray by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals.
The 23-year-old stunned third seed Grigor Dimitrov, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to make the last four of a grand slam for the first time in his career and become only the sixth British man to do so in the Open era.
World No49 Edmund, who is without an ATP final to his name, will face Marin Cilic, who progressed after top seed Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from their quarter-final tie through injury, on Thursday for a place in Sunday’s final.
Edmund has carried the British flag as the sole male from these shores in the singles main draw following the enforced absence of Murray, a five-time Melbourne finalist, through injury, but it is a burden he is embracing.
“I [now] know what it feels to be Andy Murray for the last eight years or however long,” said British No2 Edmund. “It comes with the territory of playing pressure sport – the better you do, the more attention that you get.
“It is probably the first time I have done well on my own so there is more attention there. You just take it in your stride and try to embrace it as much as possible.
“But it is a good problem to have when you are winning and getting all that attention so I guess the more I keep winning, the better.”
Bahamas-based Edmund followed in the footsteps of Murray, Greg Rusedski, John Lloyd, Roger Taylor and Tim Henman, who were previously the only British males to reach a grand slam singles semi-final since tennis tuned professional in 1968.
He achieved it by winning a fifth consecutive Tour level match and beating a top-five player – on his debut in the Rod Laver Arena – for the first time in his career.
“I am loving it right now – just the way I’m playing,” added Edmund. “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 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. But of course the big one is to be in grand slam finals. Obviously a dream is to win them. I want to keep going.”
Nadal, meanwhile, was forced to retire hurt for only the second time in his career with what appeared to be a groin or upper thigh injury, allowing Cilic to progress 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 2-0.
In the women’s draw, Belgium’s Elise Mertens thrashed fourth seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to set up a semi-final clash with Caroline Wozniacki.