Newks 15: Alcott becomes dominant force
In the lead up to next week's Newcombe Medal, we review the impressive 2015 seasons of our six finalists. Today we feature wheelchair whiz Dylan Alcott.
Dylan Alcott continues to break new ground.
The wheelchair tennis star, Australia’s newest world No.1 and Grand Slam champion, has now become the first player with a disability to be nominated for the Newcombe Medal.
Alcott is one of six nominees for the prestigious medal, awarded to Australia’s most outstanding player and ambassador for the sport.
He couldn’t be happier.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable. Being the first athlete with a disability to ever be nominated for the Newk is absolutely incredible,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable to have that support of Tennis Australia. I see myself as an elite athlete first and foremost who just happens to use a wheelchair as a product of how I play.
“There’s always been, across all sports, an athlete with a disability category and that’s been great, but to be recognised just purely as an elite athlete and to be among the other nominees and with those who have won in the past, it’s humbling. I can’t believe it. It’s awesome.”
Alcott’s rise up the wheelchair tennis ranks has been, quite simply, meteoric.
Having quit tennis as a junior to focus on basketball and winning gold with the Australian men’s Paralympic basketball team at Beijing 2008, he only returned to tennis competitively in 2014. One year later, he was hoisting the Australian Open trophy.
His first Grand Slam title was one of eight tournament victories in 2015; the last of those was the US Open quad singles crown, which returned him to world No.1.
“Winning the Aussie Open was where it all started really. To be from Melbourne, I grew up here, I went to the Australian Open ever since I was five years old. Before I retired for the first time I used to play at Melbourne Park and to win on that home court in front of 500 of my friends, all going absolutely nuts for me, there was just no way I was going to lose,” he reflected.
“The next biggest thing was the US Open – that was a lot tougher. I dropped one of the round-robin matches and got in the final, was winning comfortably and then I got a bit nervous, got a bit tight, lost the second and then I won 7-5 in the third after three hours and 30 minutes.
“We were just before Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic went on for their final; there was just thousands of people watching and it was such a great atmosphere to have in New York, a place that I love.
“Considering three years ago I was travelling around the world not sure what I wanted to do with my life after I’d won a silver (medal at London 2012) playing basketball, to two-and-a-half years later being No.1 in the world and (winning) two Grand Slams, it’s amazing.”
At just 24 years of age, Alcott has already achieved what many players spend an entire career pursuing.
And with major titles and the top ranking already in the bag, Alcott is focused on even bigger things in 2016.
“There have only been a handful of athletes in history that have won two gold medals in two different sport across two different Olympic or Paralympic Games, and if I could join that list it would be an incredible achievement for myself and amazing for the Paralympic movement so that’s the goal, it really is,” he said.
“Ever since I came back and played tennis, the Grand Slams are awesome, but winning that gold medal would just really wrap up my sporting career in a great way I think.
“There’s really not much more I could do after that, and I’ll be training every day my arse off thinking about winning that gold medal, because that’s what I really want.”
The Newcombe Medal, Australian Tennis Awards will be held at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium on Monday 23 November. Watch the live stream of the event on Tennis Australia’s YouTube channel.