Dylan Alcott lashes out at Australian Open over $3 million farce
Australian Open finalist Dylan Alcott has called on world tennis to raise prizemoney for wheelchair players, saying that despite improvements, travelling for tournaments is often unaffordable.
Alcott, who lost his final match before retiring to longtime rival and friend Sam Schroder in the quad wheelchair final on Thursday evening, praised the Australian Open for leading the way on the issue but said more had to be done.
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Winners of the mens and womens singles take home multi-million dollar prizes, with winners pocketing a cool $2.875 million and runners up a not too shabby $1.575 million.
Quarter and semi finalists still take home hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a first round loss at the Australian Open nets a $103,000 payday.
That six figure bonus looks like a king's ransom to winners of the quad wheelchair competition, Alcott said, with the most generous prizes still only half that of a first round singles player's.
Alcott, who said current arrangements were a vast improvement on the 'firm handshake and cold Powerade' winners used to get, said even winning tournaments often didn't even cover the costs of travel.
“I won the lead-in tournament here and it was like $1300,” he said.
“How much is a flight from Europe, $3000?
“It’s not just Australia, it’s all around the world. We don’t get $3.5 million for winning.
“We get less than half the first-round loser ($103,000) that the able-bodied get at all slams.
“That’s way better than it was. We used to get a firm handshake and a cold Powerade. So it’s better, but we’ve got to keep building it so it gets better and better.”
The recently-crowned Australian of the Year said his biggest goal was to change longstanding attitudes towards disability sports.
Not my day today - but can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for every single one of you for changing my life.
I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Thank you for making me feel worthy. I’m the luckiest guy in the world #ausopen pic.twitter.com/27FJOX00KW
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) January 27, 2022
Alcott believes a larger cultural shift needs to take place which opens more opportunity and ability for disabled players to become professionals.
“We have the best Paralympic sport in the world because of the integration with the able-bodied tour. It’s unbelievable. And we do a poor job of leveraging that all year,” he said.
“But people internally sometimes don’t do as good a job to understand how good the product is. Not to say when we go to fight for us more to put us on the main court and not think we’re lucky to be here, because we’re not lucky to be here, we deserve to be here. That’s the difference.
“People think we’re lucky to be here; get stuffed. We deserve to be here. We’re selling tickets, sponsors are making money and people are loving it. So start thinking like that and then it will all change. That’s what I was lucky enough to do.”
Dylan Alcott outclassed in Australian Open tennis farewell
Having travelled to Canberra mid-week to attend the Australian of the Year awards, where he was a popular winner, Alcott had it all to do against Schroder after a gruelling first set.
Schroder had his number in the second frame however, breaking Alcott's streak of four grand slam victories.
In a moving speech after the match, Alcott paid tribute to his opponent, and to the Australian Open for their work elevating the wheelchair tennis competition.
“Congratulations Sam, you deserved to win today, you were definitely the better player,” he said.
“To the Australian Open, I love you so much. Thanks so much to Jane (Hrdlicka), Craig (Tiley) and everybody, for changing my life and backing someone who is disabled to be the front of your brand.
“It’s not all around the world when every single locker room we go into there’s wheelchair tennis on. It started on this court, right here together, so I’m very thankful."
Alcott retires from tennis leaving an incredible on-court legacy, capped by his historic golden slam in 2021.
The 31-year-old won all four grand slams as well as gold at the Tokyo Paralympics to forever etch his name in the history books, however the newly crowned Australian of the Year made it clear his legacy would be about so much more than tennis.
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