Dylan Alcott has been left overwhelmed by a brilliant message of support from World No.1 Novak Djokovic.
Alcott created tennis history on Saturday with a fifth-straight Australian Open quad wheelchair singles title.
The Melbourne native downed American David Wagner 6-4 7-6 (7-2) in a repeat of last year’s final and the most recent US Open decider on Rod Laver Arena.
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Alcott has quickly become a fan favourite throughout his career, and even the great Djokovic has taken notice.
“I’ve said it before, these guys are heroes to me,” Djokovic said ahead of Sunday night’s men’s singles final against Rafael Nadal.
“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 later revealed how Djokovic’s tribute left him very emotional.
“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.”
‘People with disability can be elite’
Victory earned the 28-year-old a seventh grand slam title – but having the final aired live on TV meant so much to Alcott.
“I remember I was 14 years old and I was lying in bed and all I wanted to do was make it in the mainstream in some way,” an emotional Alcott said.
“I wanted to show that people with disability can be elite at what they do. I wanted to show them that they could be normal people, get a job, work, have fun, have a partner, do all the things everyone takes for granted.
“This match was broadcast into every single TV in Australia. That meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to the four and a half million people in Australia with a disability.
“It’s been great for me but I want it to be great for a lot more people than just me.”
The local hero endured some nervous moments, giving up a 5-2 lead in the second set and sending down two double faults at 5-5.
But the 44-year-old Wagner, a six-time major winner, was unable to keep his momentum going in a tiebreaker dominated by Alcott.
A Paralympic gold medallist in tennis and basketball who has earned major sponsorship deals and launched a budding media career, Alcott has arguably brought greater visibility to people with disabilities in sport than any other Australian.
In 2016, he was also the first disabled athlete to win the prestigious Newcombe Medal, the highest individual honour in Australian tennis.