After all the accolades and applause, Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott has had to switch his focus fast to savour one “last dance” on the tennis court.
The feted wheelchair tennis star will make his farewell to the sport in Thursday’s quad final at the Rod Laver Arena, having almost forgotten about the match amid a whirlwind few days that culminated in him earning the coveted distinction.
After jetting back from the Australian of the Year ceremony in Canberra, held just a few hours after he’d won his semi in Melbourne, the 31-year-old was back at the tournament on Wednesday, laughing with reporters: “S***, I got to play tennis tomorrow, don’t I? Forgot about that.”
The irrepressible Alcott reckoned he was hardly in the best shape to tackle his old Dutch rival Sam Schroder as he shoots for his eighth Australian Open title, which could also be his 16th grand slam triumph.
“Emotionally, I’m a full ten out of ten; physically, I’m a two out of ten. I am wrecked – but I wouldn’t want it any other way. That’s how I always live my life.
“No, it’s the last dance, baby – win, lose or draw.
“I mean, I want to win, but I will live if I don’t win. I’m still the luckiest guy in the world if I don’t win.
This will, he reasserted, be his last match and there’ll be no comeback in the style of another past Australian of the Year, singer John Farnham.
“I promise you I’m going to give it a right old crack. ‘Dylan, enjoy it because you’re never going to get it again’,” smiled Alcott.
“I love John Farnham, but I’m not the going to be the wheelchair John Farnham and come back. I promise this is it. This is a hundred per cent it.”
Asked if he’d ever been more ‘fried’ before a match, he said: “I’m a glutton for punishment.
“I work 16-hour days on TV and try and win the Australian Open. I won 2018 Australian Open on drip every night in hospital with a blood infection. That was pretty gnarly.
“But, no, I am probably more fried right now.
“When you are grateful for those opportunities, you find energy sources you don’t realise you have.”
And after his remarkable career, he couldn’t be more thrilled about sharing the Rod Laver Arena stage on his final day in the sport with Ash Barty and the Nick Kyrgios/Thanasi Kokkinakis doubles pairing, who are playing in their respective semi-finals.
“What a triple-header? Are you serious?” exclaimed Alcott, when he heard the news.
“Well, no excuse not to watch that unless you hate tennis – or hate me! Go for it!”