New York, USA, 9 September 2021 | Vivienne Christie

Dylan Alcott readily admits his trademark positivity was tough to summon at the 2020 US Open.

The world No.1 had successfully campaigned for wheelchair tennis to be staged at the tournament, which was adapted to manage the many challenges of the pandemic.

But still bitterly disappointed that the Tokyo Paralympics were postponed last year, Alcott also suffered a surprise loss to the fast-rising Sam Schroder in his fourth appearance in a US Open final.

“I was gutted, proper, and I acted cool, and I wasn’t cool,” said Alcott of that challenging period. “That’s why I struggled and played so poorly at the US Open, because that’s when the Paralympics should have been.”

Fast forward a year, and the contrast couldn’t be more pronounced as Alcott launches a sixth campaign at Flushing Meadows.

A winner of a record seventh straight quad wheelchair singles title at Australian Open 2021, Alcott has also lifted trophies at Roland Garros and Wimbledon this season.

With a second consecutive singles gold medal secured at the Tokyo Paralympics last weekend, the Australian now targets a Golden Slam with stunning momentum.

The 30-year-old Alcott has won all but one of the 18 matches he’s contested in the 2021 season, exiting to world No.2 Schroder in the semifinals of the French Riviera Open.

Should Alcott lift the trophy in New York on Sunday, he’ll be the first man in tennis history to win every Grand Slam, and a gold medal, in a single season.

But while Alcott believes “the opportunity to win the Golden Slam is cool,” he also maintains a level-headed outlook to that potential milestone.

Two years ago, Alcott also claimed every Grand Slam title ahead of the US Open but secured just a single game in the final against Andy Lapthorne. It was his first singles loss of the 2019 season.

“I don’t want to think about (the Golden Slam) because I had an opportunity to win the Grand Slam here a couple of years ago, and I stuffed it up because I thought about it,” said Alcott, a two-time singles winner at the US Open.

> READ: Dylan Alcott claims Paralympic Gold in Tokyo

If recent events are a guide, the Melburnian will instead approach his final Grand Slam of the 2021 season with enormous gratitude.

It’s been a theme of every post-victory assessment this season, including after his gold medal match in Tokyo. “To everybody back home that’s doing it tough, we’ve been thinking about you,” said the emotional champion.

“We’re the ones that are lucky to do our jobs at the moment. I’m very grateful for that and hopefully this puts a few smiles on some faces.”

Alcott is also grateful for some significant points of difference at this US Open.

For the first time, the 2021 US Open quad wheelchair singles draw features eight players and will be contested in a knock-out format.

The expanded draw includes close friend and fellow Australian Heath Davidson, who teamed with Alcott to claim the quad wheelchair doubles silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

In his first singles match against Bryan Barten, a world No.9 American, Alcott will also appreciate that crowds have returned to Flushing Meadows. The effervescent Australian makes no secret of his love of competing before an audience. “I feed off that energy,” he related.

Alcott appreciates that support could be required as the competition intensifies in quad wheelchair tennis. Dutch teenager Niels Vink pushed the Australian in a two-and-a-half hour semifinal in Tokyo, and his countryman Schroder led 5-3 in the gold medal match.

“How good did the Dutch kids get?” Alcott commented. “The extra year (before the Paralympics) was so bad for me, because they got awesome.”

Not that Alcott is complaining about his quality opponents. The 18-year-old Vink and 21-year-old Schroder – who are drawn against each other in their US Open singles openers – clearly represent the future of quad wheelchair singles tennis.

“The current gen(eration) and the next gen are just so impressive,” said Alcott, who confirmed he’d competed in a final Paralympics in Tokyo.

Having first claimed the world No.1 ranking in 2015, Alcott has set a stunning benchmark for many of those players – both professionally and on a personal level.

It showed as Alcott discussed the possibility of a Golden Slam at Roland Garros.

“I used to have expectations of myself to win. You can have a goal to win, but the only expectation you can have is to be the best version of you. That’s all you can worry about,” said Alcott.

“And you know what? If I win the Golden Grand Slam, there will be tears running down my face and I’ll be that happy. But if I don’t, there will still be tears running down my face because I live the best life out of anybody I know. I think having that perspective is important.”

> READ: US Open 2021 – Proud Aussies ready to play on Day 11