An emotional Dylan Alcott claimed the Australian Open quad wheelchair title for a fifth straight year, crowned champion in front of a huge home crowd in Melbourne on Australia Day. Alcott downed US rival David Wagner 6-4, 7-6(2) in a see-sawing final on Rod Laver Arena.
The result means a second sweep of the quad titles for Alcott in 2019, having won a second doubles title with fellow Australian Heath Davidson on Thursday.
“I wanted to show that people with disability can be elite at what they do. I wanted to show them that they can be normal people – get a job, have fun, have a partner, do all the things everyone else takes for granted. I just wanted to see people with disability succeeding in the mainstream, in the media. And today, this match was broadcast on every single TV in Australia.”
Alcott and Wagner’s round-robin encounter had lasted over two hours in sweltering conditions two days ago, and the final looked to be heading the same way when Wagner served for the second set at 6-5.
But Alcott broke back to keep the set alive before surging through the tiebreak. He performed spins in celebration in the middle of the court after hitting an unreturnable serve on his first championship point, before shedding tears in the trophy ceremony.
“Today was a really special day,” said the 28-year-old. “When I was 14 years old, I was lying in bed, and all I wanted to do was make it in the mainstream in some way.
“I think that’s one of the best matches we’ve ever played,” Alcott told Wagner, describing the bearded 44-year-old as the ‘wheelchair Hugh Jackman’.
“You played unbelievably well. I’m sure we’ll play in many more finals, so thanks brother.”
De Groot continues dominance
Diede De Groot remains the player to beat in women’s wheelchair tennis after sweeping the titles for a third consecutive Grand Slam tournament at the 2019 Australian Open.
The 22-year-old defended her singles crown with a resounding 6-0 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Yui Kamiji, before returning to claim her first doubles title at Melbourne Park alongside Dutch compatriot Aniek van Koot, completing her career doubles Grand Slam in the process.
De Groot, who also collected both titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, was in scintillating form all week at Melbourne Park, dropping just seven games in her three singles matches.
“I’m not very good with the heat, but I like playing here,” she said.
Only one Grand Slam singles title remains outstanding from De Groot’s CV, but she isn’t going to get obsessed with winning Roland Garros between now and June. Instead, she’s looking for more speed around the court, with a new chair awaiting her on her return home.
“The key focus is getting used to my new chair. I’m really excited about it – it’s going to be stiffer, with a bucket, and going to be really fast, so I’m going to have to get used to that. I need new training goals to aim at, and I don’t know if Roland Garros is going to come but it’s not a goal for me.”
If De Groot’s singles triumph was a rout, her doubles victory alongside compatriot Van Koot was a battle to the very end, the Dutch duo downing Marjolein Buis and Sabine Ellerbrock 5-7 7-6(4) 10-8.
Having lost a tight opener, both De Groot and Van Koot passed up chances to serve out the second set, before clinching two points against Buis’s serve from 3-4 to bring up two chances to level the match, forcing the 10-point tiebreak after De Groot fired a forehand winner down the line to end an 11-shot rally.
Fernandez’s fresh mentality
Gustavo Fernandez ended a four-match losing streak in Grand Slam finals to claim his third major title, and second at the Australian Open, with a 7-5 6-3 victory over perennial rival Stefan Olsson of Sweden in the men’s singles.
The Argentine pointed to his improved mental strength after adding the 2019 title to his 2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Australian Open victories.
Since his Melbourne Park victory two years ago, he had taken home the finalist plates from Roland Garros and Wimbledon in both 2017 and 2018, prompting his decision to start working with mental coach Santiago Sanchez.
“He works on my focus,” Fernandez said. “He tries to take the emotions off when I don’t need them, and on when I do need them. I work a lot in that matter because after I got to No. 1 in the world in 2017, a lot of things happened in myself, and I had to grow in a lot of matters mentally. So I started to work with him. He did a great job – I think it works, it pays off.
“It was really, really tough. I lost four Grand Slam finals. It was hard moments for me. I have to work a lot, in a lot of matters, both technically and mentally. So it’s really, really good to be back winning a Grand Slam.”