Two for two: Dylan Alcott and Diede de Groot win historic wheelchair tennis Golden Slams
[Sept 13, 2021: Victoria Chiesa]
Diede de Groot became the first player to complete the golden slam in wheelchair tennis after winning all four majors and the Paralympic gold medal, completing the feat by winning the US Open final on Sunday.
The Dutch top seed beat Japan's second seed Yui Kamiji 6-3 6-2 in the women's match at the Louis Armstrong Stadium in what was a repeat of the gold medal match at the Tokyo Paralympic Games earlier this month.
"For a long time it wasn't possible because Wimbledon didn't have a singles event. For a few years now they've had it... it's just great to see the tour and the professionalism going up each year," De Groot told reporters.
"To be the first one to actually get that title is just so special. I don't think I will ever forget that."
Not long after on Sunday, Australian top seed Dylan Alcott also completed a golden slam in his respective event, taking down Dutchman Niels Vink 7-5 6-2 in the wheelchair quad singles final.
Alcott is the first men's wheelchair tennis player to complete a golden slam.
"What a legend Diede is. I was the second person to win a Golden Slam today, the third person ever by an hour. It's crazy, yeah? Compared to Steffi Graf. So credit to her," Alcott said.
"I think I'm the first male in any form of tennis to win the Golden Slam, which is just unbelievable. I mean, I'm going to cry. It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. Everybody in this room asked me, 'Are you thinking about the Golden Slam?' I've said, 'No, I don't really care about it, all year.'
"Of course I cared about it. It's nice not to pretend anymore. It's just incredible. Really is... I had fun today. I really enjoyed it. I'll never get the opportunity to win a Golden Slam again. I was like, Let's go out there, enjoy yourself, do it for my team, our country.
"Australia is going through a really tough time at the moment. I know a lot of people got up and watched in the early hours of the morning. I feed off that energy.The crowd was good today, as well. It was a good crowd out there. I just enjoyed myself. I hit a really good shot to win, which is always nice. I was really proud of our team, what we accomplished. To be up all year, to win everything, is hard work. Really hard work. To get it done was super special."
The title is Alcott's 15th major in singles overall, and the Golden Slam adds to a dominant career resume that dates back seven years since he returned to wheelchair tennis after a spell playing wheelchair basketball.
Emotional in victory in his on-court winner's speech, the 30-year-old says that he doesn't know if he'll be back at the US Open next year—but later told press that he's "got a little bit left" heading into 2022 and his home major at the Australian Open.
"The sport is in such a good spot. The reason Diede and I are going so well is because of the next generation of athletes. She's the next generation. Niels is the next generation, pushing me. I don't think I'm going to be back here at all," Alcott said.
"I definitely don't want to be at the Paralympics ever again. So many wheelchair tennis players and Paralympians came before us that didn't get the recognition they deserved. I fully appreciate I'm the lucky one that people might know our names. We have sponsors, we're getting announced on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium], we're in Armstrong, doing special things.
"I just want to leave the sport in a better spot for the next generation of young tennis players to come, wheelchair tennis players, and tennis players in general. I hope I played a very small part of that.
"I'm proud to be disabled. I'm proud to play wheelchair tennis. I'm proud I've won the Golden Slam in wheelchair tennis. I don't want to play able-body tennis. I don't want to go to the Olympics. I don't want to be out there with Novak [Djokovic] and [Daniil] Medvedev. I want to be me. I'm proud to be me. I'm proud of the journey that we've had."
In a 75-minute final, Alcott was pushed to find his best tennis by the Dutch teenager for the second time in as many weeks. On the way to winning the gold medal in Tokyo, Alcott defeated Vink in a three-set semifinal match that lasted nearly three hours.
"Niels is 18 years old. I remember being a 17-year-old wheelchair basketballer at the Paralympics. I just wanted to beat everybody, but I also wanted to do it in a good way, be a nice person. It's been the most important thing to me, is to be a good person first, tennis comes second. Niels is like that. It's always an honor to share the court with him," Alcott said.
"I wouldn't have won today if I didn't play that semifinal I think. Niels pushed me like I've never been pushed. I found something internally that I haven't needed in years. That made me a better player, but an even better person I think. Being a good person is the most important thing in my life. I was more aggressive today because of that match. I enjoyed it more because of that match. I am a better player and person because of him.
"Whenever I hit a drop shot against my coach, Francois, that a wheelchair person couldn't get, he runs and screams, 'Niels!', when he goes for the shot. We simulate playing Niels. I wouldn't be the player I am without that kid.
"I think I played better today than I did last time. I think the quality of the match was better today, but the fight in Tokyo was incredible. He's going to win 10 US Opens, 13 Golden Slams. Don't worry about him. He's going to dominate.
"I'm feeling about as washed up as I've ever felt, to be honest, as I sit here today because of the next generation coming through, which is pretty cool."
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