A conversation with 11-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver at this year’s Australian Open has ignited a burning desire within Dylan Alcott to emulate his countryman and attain sporting immortality.
Alcott has long been an advocate of quad singles and quad doubles featuring at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, in addition to their regular slots at the Australian Open and US Open, and this year, for the first time, they will.
The 28-year-old is a serial title winner on the hard courts of Melbourne and New York, and now the world No. 1 is spying an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Laver and scale new heights.
By winning the 1962 US Open, Laver became the first man to be crowned singles champion in all four major tournaments in the same year since Don Budge in 1938. Laver would go on to repeat the feat in 1969.
“As an elite tennis player growing up, you dream of playing the four Grand Slams and for this to be made possible for me is a dream come true,” Alcott told the International Tennis Federation.
After winning his fifth consecutive Australian Open crown in January, courtesy of a 6-4, 7-6(2) defeat of long-time rival David Wagner (USA), Alcott delivered the most emotional and poignant victory speech of his career.
“This was probably the most raw I’ve ever been on the public stage, as I was truly overcome by the support of both my friends and family, but more so the entire nation,” he said.
“I spoke about how growing up I never saw anyone like me on the television, which meant I didn’t have direct role models. I am very aware of the impact that seeing someone who looks just like you on the big screen has.
“That is why having the Australian Open final televised on Nine’s Wide World of Sports was a highlight of my career – I still get goosebumps thinking about the change that we’re continuing to make in sport.
“More visibility of wheelchair tennis in general is what we want. But it goes wider than sport. I have a saying that I live by: ‘For every one thing I can’t do, there are 10,000 others that I can’. Everyone can be elite in their own hobby or profession.”
Alcott did not come to this realisation overnight.
By his own admission, there were times when he was lonely and depressed, and feared for his future.
But through sport, Alcott began to fight back. He swam for his home state of Victoria and has represented Australia in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. He scooped gold and silver with the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team, the Rollers, at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, and two gold medals in wheelchair tennis at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He has seven Grand Slam singles titles and two Grand Slam doubles titles.
No player has won more Grand Slam quad singles crowns than Alcott, who has targeted “as many as possible”.
“I don’t make all tournaments due to other commitments but when I do, I’m there for one reason.”
His other commitments are wide-ranging. Alcott is a motivational speaker and radio host, and in 2017, he established the Dylan Alcott Foundation to help young Australians with disabilities gain self-esteem through sport and study.
“My hobbies off the tennis court make me a better player on the court. Without them, I’d go a little insane,” he said.
“I’m very aware that sport has been the direction I have chosen and lucky enough to pursue, however it’s not for everyone. Finding a way where I can still connect with people in their interests and encourage change has been, and will continue to be, very important to me.”
Outside interests and the desire to be more than a sportsman have led to “epic” comparisons with former England football captain David Beckham.
“If the two of us can continue to inspire outside of sport, I’m not opposed to that,” Alcott said.
By Ross McLean, International Tennis Federation