Dylan Alcott has recalled the awkward time he met Roger Federer at his first Australian Open.
Speaking with James Bracey on Wide World of Sports’ The Happy Slam podcast, Alcott described how sharing a locker room between the able-bodied and para-athletes at Melbourne Park set up a hilarious first encounter with Federer.
“We play at the same time as the able-bodied players, and I remember all I wanted to do was meet Roger Federer because I love him. He’s just the king,” he said of the 2014 tournament.
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“I am very lucky that the first time I got to meet him was in the locker room, I had the locker next to him, and he may have been sans clothes as you do in the locker room.
“He said, ‘Hi, I’m Roger’, and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Dylan’, and I was just thinking eye contact, eye contact, eye contact, because when you’re in a wheelchair, where are you? Do you know what I mean? Where’s your level?”
A multi-sport athlete who enjoyed top-level success in wheelchair tennis and basketball, Alcott went back to playing quad tennis after claiming a silver medal with the Australian men’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
“After my trip overseas, I had to hit with my old tennis coach and he said, ‘Look Dyl, when you used to play tennis you were quite slow in your wheelchair’, but I got quite fast through basketball because you’ve got to be to get court time. And he said, ‘Basketball has been good for you. Why don’t you try to do this (wheelchair tennis) properly?’,” Alcott said.
“I said, ‘Nup, I’m retired, I’m 22 years old. And he said, ‘Yeah, come on, give me six months. Enter the Australian Open wildcard playoff where one Aussie gets in (the tournament) and see how you go’.
“I did it and I won it.
“I didn’t do very well at my first AO, but I enjoyed it.”
Not to know he would go on to win seven consecutive Australian Open titles, Alcott was knocked out in the semi-finals during his debut tournament.
However, despite the disappointing result by his standards, Alcott detailed how his first campaign at the Melbourne major opened his eyes to how able-bodied and para-athletes could share the platform in sport.
“Did I think we would be talking now, saying that we won 15 grand slam titles, two more gold medals and be ranked No.1 in the world for four years? Absolutely not. That was never the plan,” he said.
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“But what I did realise was the normalisation and inclusion of wheelchair tennis into the able-bodied arena is unparalleled.
“I was one of the best basketballers in the world at one point. I never met LeBron James, I never hung out with him and I never played with him.
“Yet when I played tennis, I’m sharing a locker room with Roger, Rafa (Nadal) and Ash Barty. They’re like, ‘G’day Dyl’.
“Like we’re mates, we train together, we play together. And it isn’t always like that (in other sports).
“I saw that as an opportunity to be like, we could do something special here. So I’m really going to try and see how far we can go to mainstream a Paralympic sport.”
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