‘He’s Inspired a Nation’: Dylan Alcott Says Goodbye to Tennis
Through sports, Alcott found a platform to spread his message. He first won Paralympic gold in basketball in 2008 when he was 17, later switching to tennis. But the attention was far from immediate. “Legit, there was five people there,” Alcott said of his first Australian Open match, in 2014. “Five. My dad, mom, brother, couple of mates, and some people who got lost and accidentally walked past.”
When Alcott did interviews and made appearances, his charisma won him further exposure, both as a radio and television personality and as a spokesman for brands like ANZ bank. “The reason I’ve been able to cut through is because of who I am and what I say and what we stand for as a community,” he said. “Luckily I just know how to string two words together. And also I’ve got a get-stuff-done attitude where I just want to get it done.”
Alcott expressed frustration that other successful athletes with impairments have had nowhere near his resonance, but he hoped that his could pave a path.
“Tennis players have won Grand Slams and gold medals in wheelchairs before, but haven’t had that cut through,” Alcott said. “It’s got nothing really to do about me playing tennis, to be honest. It’s about what I say, I guess who I am, mostly being fully proud of who I am, authentically me and challenging the status quo.”
The Australian Open has embraced Alcott, making him prominent in its advertising campaigns. His face smiles opposite Barty’s on a mural near the tournament’s south entrance. Wheelchair tennis, particularly the quad division, has never gotten anything close to the attention that Alcott has attracted. But he expressed optimism that the players who now will be able to win Grand Slam event titles in his absence — including Schroder and his Dutch compatriot Niels Vink — will be able to sustain interest.
“They’re ready to go,” Alcott said. “I’m redundant. I’m officially a retired, washed-up proper loser, and I love that.”