sports

Novak Djokovic's heartwarming tribute to Aussie Australian Open winner Dylan Alcott.

Saturday was a momentous occasion for Aussie wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott, who Novak Djokovic said he counts as an “inspiration”.

Not because he won the Australian Open men’s quad wheelchair singles final – he’d done that already four times, in a row.

It’s because this year it was the first time the 28-year-old’s Australian Open win could be seen by thousands of Australians sitting at-home. The 2019 tournament was the first to have any of the wheelchair tennis matches televised.

And perhaps that’s why one of Australia’s greatest athletes perhaps still needs an introduction for some.

The five-time Australian Open winner has represented Australia in both wheelchair tennis and basketball, winning gold medals in the men’s quad singles and doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s also been awarded an Order of Australia Medal and works as a Triple J radio presenter on the side.

australian open wheelchair tennis dylan alcott
Dylan Alcott after his fifth straight Australian Open win. Image: Getty

The disability advocate was overcome with emotion after his 6-4, 7-6 win over number two seed and long-time rival, American David Wagner, on Saturday afternoon.

"Today was a really special day," he said, wiping away tears.

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"I remember 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 wanted to show that people with a disability can be elite at what they do.

"I wanted to show them that they can be normal people, get a job, work, have fun, have a partner — do all the things people take for granted. I just wanted to see people with a disability succeeding in the mainstream and in the media.

"Today, because of the Australian Open and the Wide World of Sports, it was broadcast into every single TV in Australia."

Alcott, who runs the Dylan Alcott Foundation to support young people with disabilities to achieve their goals, explained why that was so important.

"That meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to the 4.5 million people in Australia and to the 1.4 billion people around the world with a disability, it really did," he said.

"I hope this is just the start and we can keep going. It’s been great for me but I hope it can be great for a lot more people than just me and I really appreciate every single one of you in this stadium today. It’s unbelievable, this crowd."

Djokovic's tribute to Alcott

The Melbourne man was also thrilled when, before his win over Rafael Nadal, fellow world number one Novak Djokovic mentioned his "inspiring" win.

"I’ve said it before, these guys are heroes to me," the Australian Open winner said ahead of the match.

"They make the game of tennis even more beautiful and more unique because of what they do and how they do it.

"They turn their handicap into something that inspires a lot of people, including myself."

Alcott said that he was touched by Djokovic's words, Seven News reports.

"For him to say that but also care about the results, they care about what we’re doing now," he said.

"The public cares about what we’re doing now. It’s because we’re elite sportsmen first and foremost. I’m elite, I just happen to be in a wheelchair.

"They see that now, the public sees that now and that’s what I believe in. We can be good at whatever we do, no matter your difference or your disability."

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