Dylan Alcott crowned one of Australia’s greatest Paralympic careers by defending his quad singles wheelchair tennis gold medal in Tokyo on Saturday.
The 30-year-old defeated Sam Schroder of the Netherlands 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, to continue his stellar 2021, where he will endeavour to complete the ‘golden slam’ at the US Open next week.
After the match Alcott confirmed he would not be in Paris in three years’ time, ending a Paralympic career which began as a teenage basketballer in Beijing, and ends with a total of four gold and two silver medals, across two sports.
An emotional Alcott, who has often referred to the importance the Paralympics has played in his life, shed a tear as the national anthem played at Ariake Tennis Park.
The world no. 1 admitted the pandemic-forced delay to Tokyo 2020 made this victory one of the sweetest of his time in green and gold.
“I was almost done after Rio. I was in a dark place when it (Tokyo) got delayed because I was done,” he said.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it here. And then, ‘how good do the Dutch kids get?’ The extra year was so bad for me because they got awesome.
“That was the hardest tournament I’ve ever played. I feel like an old, ancient man.”
World no. 2 Schroder put up an admirable fight, but Alcott’s determination and experience shone throughout the match which took an hour and 33 minutes to complete.
The 21-year-old Dutchman served for the opening set only for Alcott to break in the 10th game, and when it came to the tie-break, the reigning champion won the first four points to establish the platform to take the lead.
Just as the youngster was beginning to look overawed, when he dropped his opening two serves of the second set, Schroder proved his quality by getting a break back in the fourth game.
Schroder’s service game at 1-3 was gripping, with Alcott needing five break points before re-establishing his double break and effectively closing the door on a Dutch comeback.
Alcott punished Schroder’s second serve, the Australian winning 60 per cent of points when the world no. 2 missed his first ball, and the defending champion also won eight points to nil when coming forward to the net.
"We'll keep making you proud!"— AUS Paralympic Team (@AUSParalympics) September 4, 2021
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“I’m just so thankful and grateful that I was able to get it done,” Alcott said.
“At 5-3 (in the first set) I wasn’t having much fun and I went, let’s have some fun. This is your domain, you love this, so start loving it. I think I lost two games after that.
“The Australian public has got behind me and my career, the whole Paralympic movement, I’m just such a proud Paralympian.
“I’ve got a few more tournaments left in me, but not three years left, so how special to go out on top like this.”
Alcott also took time to reflect on the contribution the Paralympics has made to his life and was asked what the teenager, who made his debut in 2008, would think of the man at the end of his fourth and final Games campaign.
“He’d be just so thankful of the life that he lives,” he said.
“I didn’t think I had much of a life to live. I hated myself. Now I live the best life out of anybody I’ve ever met and I’m so lucky and grateful.
“The Paralympics saved my life.”
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While the celebrations for the Australian team will go deep into the night, it’s a short release before an early flight on Sunday to New York, for a US Open week like no other in wheelchair tennis history.
The Netherlands’ open singles gold medallist Diede de Groot, along with Alcott, will be looking to complete the ‘golden slam’ after winning at the three majors earlier this year.
No wheelchair tennis player has completed the grand slam in a year where they have also won the Paralympic gold medal.
QUAD SINGLES FINAL
Dylan Alcott (AUS) (1) def. Sam Schroder (NED) (2) 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.
By: Quentin Hull, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 4 September