It has been quite a last six months for 24-year-old Dylan Alcott. Playing wheelchair tennis continuously for 24 hours, rapping at a music festival with a member of the Wu Tang Clan hip hop group and now competing in his first Grand Slam final in his home city of Melbourne, Australia.
Alcott's 6-1 6-1 victory against South African Lucas Sithole on Friday (30 January) booked his place in the quad wheelchair singles final.
Last month, Alcott was on the courts of Melbourne Park for a 24-hour tennis marathon to raise more than AUD 100,000 for the Starlight Foundation and Variety Children's Charity. Later that weekend, he was on stage in front of thousands at the Meredith Music Festival in Victoria alongside rapper Ghostface Killah.
Alcott said: "I did the 24-hour [marathon] and then I went home, had a sleep and then went to the Meredith Music Festival. That was my reward to myself even though I was in a world of pain.
“Ghostface Killah asked someone to rap one of the verses from their main songs and I crowdsurfed [on his chair] from 60 metres back, he picked me and I got on stage and I rapped it word perfect.”
It turned out to be more than a one-off. Alcott, who has won gold and silver Paralympic medals in wheelchair basketball, impressed the rapper so much that he performed with him again in Melbourne and now the Wu Tang Clan are planning to pop down to Flushing Meadows to watch him in action later this year.
He said: "Ghostface actually got my phone number and called me and I went down to The Espy in Melbourne and did another show with him.
"When I am playing at the US Open, they're obviously from New York, so him and the whole Wu Tang Clan are going to come down and watch. Could you imagine my coach, my girlfriend and then the Wu Tang Clan in my player's box?
"This summer has been great so hopefully I can round it off with an Aussie Open title."
Alcott will listen to the Wu Tang Clan song Protect Ya Neck before he goes out onto court on Saturday (31 January) to take on American top seed David Wagner, who still qualified for the final despite a 6-3 7-5 defeat by Great Britain's Andrew Lapthorne.
With Wagner, Lapthorne and Sithole all claiming a win each and having the same sets won percentage, it went to games won percentage and Wagner edged out Lapthorne by just 1.52 per cent.
"I really had no clue," Wagner said when asked if he knew how many games he had to win.
"I wanted to win and that's what I want to do every time I go on the court. I know we're in a round robin and I know that every game can matter so if I'm not going to win, get as many games as I can."
Defending champion Wagner knows he faces a tough task against Alcott, having lost to him 6-4 6-4 in the round-robin stage.
He said: "Dylan is probably the strongest player in the division. With his strength, he hits a big ball, he's fast, he's got solid hands with touch and feel, so he's an all-round strong player."
Japan’s Yui Kamiji and Great Britain’s Jordanne Whiley claimed the calendar Grand Slam in the women’s wheelchair doubles last year and they carried their success into 2015 with victory in the final here, though they had to save one point in a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory against the Dutch pair of Jiskie Griffioen and Aniek Van Kooot which lasted three hours and 21 minutes.
Whiley said: "It didn't feel that long to be honest. I was so focused that I had no concept of time.
"It's always hard coming back after a successful year and starting a new year with success. That was something that was really important to us. I am really proud of Yui and myself for getting back on top of it and bringing home another trophy."
It means 20-year-old Kamiji has a chance to hold all the Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles when she takes on Griffioen on Saturday in the women's wheelchair singles final.
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda and France’s Stephane Houdet may be on opposite ends of the court during Saturday's men's wheelchair singles final but first the pair teamed up on Friday for a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory in the men's doubles championship match against Gordon Reid of Great Britain and Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez.