Dylan Alcott will leave tennis with a powerful legacy and at the top of his game, after announcing today that AO 2022 will be his final professional tournament.
As the reigning and long-time world No.1, Alcott leaves the sport on the ultimate high note.
Australian Open 2022 will be Alcott’s final tournament, where he will aim to defend the quad wheelchair singles title that made him the first player – in any format – to triumph in seven straight years at the Australian Open.
“The Australian Open is such a special place for me. There’s no way I could have finished my career at the US Open a few weeks ago because the US Open’s not my home,” an emotional Alcott said at Melbourne Park today.
“This is my home and the Australian Open changed my life. Tennis changed my life … I owe it everything and what better way than to finish in my home city in front of big, big crowds after the year that we’ve had - it’s going to be incredible.”
It follows a career-best season for Alcott, who is the first man in history to complete a Golden Slam. Losing just one match for the entire 2021 season, Alcott was a gold medallist at the Tokyo Paralympics and claimed every Grand Slam quad wheelchair singles final.
The history-making performance adds to Alcott’s gold medal performance in singles and doubles (alongside Heath Davidson) at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
To date, he has claimed 23 Grand Slam titles overall, with 15 of those victories in singles and a further eight in doubles.
It ensures a powerful legacy for the 30-year-old Melburnian, who has combined his many on-court records with tireless efforts to build the profile of wheelchair tennis, while off-court being an influential, passionate and vocal advocate for those with a disability, particularly young people.
“All I want to do is leave Paralympic sport in a better spot for the next generation of athletes,” Alcott said after completing his Golden Slam with victory in the 2021 US Open final.
Alcott is particularly proud of the role that his home Grand Slam has played in that progress.
In 2017, the Australian Open quad wheelchair singles final was contested at Rod Laver Arena, becoming the first major tournament to host its wheelchair event on centre court.
Prime time wheelchair tennis finals, televised live on Australian TV, have since become a prominent feature of the Australian Open. Earlier this year, the AO was the first Grand Slam to expand its quad wheelchair singles draw to an eight-person knockout event.
“Always leading the way, the Australian Open,” said a delighted Alcott. “There is something about this place that really embraces wheelchair tennis.
“Hopefully the other Grand Slams follow suit, as well. I think they will. They can see the benefit of it. People want to watch now because it’s such an elite sport.”
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley paid tribute to Dylan and his incredible career, while proposing a toast in his honour.
“Dylan is an incredible person, his influence, infectious personality and positivity has impacted countless people, and across a far wider field than just sport or tennis," Tiley said.
“It’s largely because of Dylan’s profile, boundless energy and popularity that we now see our incredible wheelchair athletes on centre court during the Australian Open, and on prime time TV.
“Dylan was always adamant that he wanted to be treated as part of our elite playing group, not as a wheelchair athlete, and that’s what we’ve always done. And now Dylan is not just a great champion who has set record after record, he’s an unbelievable ambassador for our sport.
“I can’t wait to see Dylan compete one last time at the AO in January, and I know the fans will turn out in droves to support him.
“Although we will miss Dylan on the court, we know there’s so much more to come. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings and I wish Dylan the very best of luck."
Some of Alcott’s proudest achievements in sport are when he’s played as part of a team, and particularly representing his country.
The Victorian returned to his first love of tennis after an impressive career in wheelchair basketball, in which he claimed a gold medal with the Australian Rollers team at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, and silver at London in 2012.
Alcott applied his team skills superbly to tennis, with his eight Grand Slam doubles titles including four straight Australian Open victories with close friend and countryman Heath Davidson.
Adding to their gold medal feats at Rio in 2016, the Australians were silver medallists in Tokyo this year.
“It’s hard battling each day against your best friend, but it makes it even better,” said Alcott. “I owe a lot of my success to him.”
While that success is unparalleled in the sport, the long-time world No.1 measures his achievements in far more than the numbers he’s amassed.
“I often actually forget how many Slams I’ve won, because it’s not my purpose,” he commented after completing his Golden Slam with a third US Open singles title.
“My purpose is changing perceptions for people with disability to live better lives. If I’ve played a very, very small role in that, then I’ve done what I need to do.”
Alcott’s role in those changed perceptions is helped by the many community and business interests he has developed in parallel to his tennis career.
Alongside prominent roles in the media, Alcott is the co-founder of Get Skilled Access and Able Foods, a meals distribution company. He also runs his own charitable foundation and the music festival Ability Fest, which has raised money to support young Australians with a disability.
While he looks forward to further developing those pursuits in his post-playing life, Alcott is also delighted at the foundation he’s established in tennis.
Dylan Alcott fact file
Wheelchair tennis career: Begins in 2006, when Alcott enters the ITF top-100 at age 16. After a success stint in wheelchair basketball, returns to the sport in 2014
Career-high singles ranking: World No.1 (first achieved in June 2015)
Career-high doubles ranking: World No.1 (first achieved in September 2019)
Grand Slam quad wheelchair titles: 15 singles, 8 doubles
Australian Open: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 singles titles; 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 doubles (all with Australian Heath Davidson)
Roland Garros: 2019, 2020, 2021 singles titles; 2019 doubles (with American David Wagner)
Wimbledon: 2019, 2021 singles titles; 2019 doubles (with Brit Andy Lapthorne)
US Open: 2015, 2018, 2021 singles titles; 2019, 2020 doubles (both with Lapthorne)
Paralympic Games record: Four gold medals, two silver medals
Beijing 2008 Gold medallist with Australian Rollers basketball team
London 2012 Silver medallist with Australian Rollers basketball team
Rio 2016 Singles and doubles (with Davidson) gold medallist quad wheelchair tennis
Tokyo 2020 Singles gold medallist quad wheelchair tennis; doubles silver medallist (with Davidson)