Australian Open: Dylan Alcott wins fourth-straight quad wheelchair title

Alcott defeats long-time rival David Wagner of the USA in straight sets on Rod Laver Arena

Dylan Alcott is hoping life will be easier for disabled children who dream of becoming sport stars after winning a remarkable fourth-straight Australian Open quad wheelchair title on Saturday to become the only person to clinch four consecutive Australian Open titles.

The home hero defeated long-time rival David Wagner of the USA in straight sets, 7-6, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena in a match that lasted just over an hour and a half.

Afterwards Alcott said he was thrilled to see disabled children in the audience watching the match. “It [wheelchair tennis] is becoming normal now which is what I wanted. Did you see how many kids with disabilities were there today? It was so awesome to see that.”

“Hopefully for the next generation of athletes with disabilities, it’ll be easier for them because of me.”

Alcott became the one of the faces of the year’s first grand slam, with the 27-year-old starring in a high profile advertising campaign for the duration of the Australian Open tournament.

He said showing a person in a wheelchair so regularly on television would “change lives”.

“I remember when I was a kid, I used to ask my parents and my brother why I never saw anybody like myself on TV,” he said courtside. “For a kid like me, now, they would have seen me at every ad break in the tennis, and that meant the world to me.”

“This is a huge two weeks capped off perfectly,” he said, after his game singles game against doubles partner Heath Davidson was moved to centre court a day earlier following Hyeon Chung’s early withdrawal from his match against Roger Federer.

Alcott said this had been a “momentous occasion” for the sport. “To get a prime-time game, it was incredible, a perfect storm... I could have paid Channel Seven a million dollars 10 years ago to feature wheelchair tennis. It was amazing to have it commentated, treated like an Australian Open match.

“By the third change of ends we had 10,000 people there. I couldn’t sleep last night, it was so cool.”

Alcott and Davidson won the 2018 quad doubles title at Melbourne Park on Thursday, a feat to rival Alcott’s momentous 2016 win which he was awarded 2016 Australian Paralympian of the year at Rio for winning a gold medal in the men’s Quad singles and doubles tennis tournaments.

Alcott, who is also a wheelchair basketball star, said the successful fortnight had reinforced that his decision to return to tennis had been “the best decision” he has made.

“It changed my life, and now it’s changing the lives of others, [it’s] making people comfortable with their disabilities and [they are] coming out of their homes. Sport is a great medium for that.”

In further progress for wheelchair tennis, there will be a quad tournament at Wimbledon for the first time in 2018, while Alcott is also working on lobbying for its inclusion in the French Open program.

“Pulling on the all whites is a dream of mine. Saying I can’t wait until Wimbledon is the understatement of my life, [but] I really want to get us into Roland Garros. They’re dragging their feet a bit, but I promise we won’t disappoint, the proof [of wheelchair tennis’ success] is in the pudding.”

Alcott reserved special praise for his defeated opponent, Wagner, who, on a 33C day in Melbourne, struggled significantly with the heat on centre court, and was able to only briefly address the crowd post-match.

“It’s always fun to play in Australia, for people who enjoy the heat, which isn’t me,” said Wagner.

“I don’t know if people know this, but as a quadriplegic I don’t sweat so it’s extremely hot out here, and I need as much shade as I can. Congratulations Dylan, I’ll be back hopefully next year when it’s colder.”

Contributor

Kate O'Halloran at Melbourne Park

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