Diede de Groot and Dylan Alcott made history at Flushing Meadows on Sunday (12 September) when they won their respective US Open finals to become the first wheelchair tennis players in history to complete the Golden Slam.
De Groot became the first female wheelchair player to win all four Grand Slam titles plus Paralympic gold in the same year when she defeated Japan’s Yui Kamiji 6-3 6-2, while Alcott achieved the same feat in the quad division after battling past the Netherlands’ Niels Vink 7-5 6-2.
“There's definitely a lot of joy [in winning the Golden Slam]. I think after the match there was also a lot of relief, maybe that came first and then came the joy,” explained the Netherlands’ De Groot.
“So happy to have it. I just can't wait to go home, celebrate it with my family, friends, everyone that has supported me in the past few weeks. I know a lot of people have been watching all of the games. Seeing as there's a lot of time difference between here and home, and also between Tokyo, I know they've been staying up late in the night.”
The final was a closer match than the scoreline suggested, Kamiji making the world No. 1 work for every point and showing moments of brilliance in what was their second match in just over a week following on from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic final.
However, as in Tokyo, De Groot’s firepower was too much for the Japanese player – she recorded 29 winners to Kamiji’s 16 – and ultimately proved too strong. Kamiji struggled on her second serve, winning just 20 per cent of those points, and despite pushing the defending champion, particularly at the start of the second set where she broke De Groot twice, she could not capitalise on that advantage.
“She's (the) toughest opponent I think. She has strengths, like she's smart. It's a little bit difficult for me to make a game. Today I tried to keep on pressure on her. Sometimes worked, but I think it's not enough to lead the game,” said Kamiji.
Alcott had to dig deep against rising star Vink, who was making his debut at the US Open, using all his experience to edge a tightly-contested first set. The Australian looked like he was going to run away with it at 3-1 30-0 in the second but the 18-year-old Dutchman showed great resilience to get the match back on serve and pushed Alcott all the way to the line, the world No.1 clinching victory after 75 minutes with a forehand winner on his first championship point.
“I can’t believe I just won the Golden Slam. I used to hate myself so much, I hated my disability and I didn’t even want to be here anymore but then I found tennis and it changed and saved my life," said Alcott, who revealed this may be his last US Open appearance. "Now I’m the only male ever in any form of tennis to have won the Golden Slam which is pretty cool.”
Alcott's victory over Vink came just over a week since he beat Vink in three close sets in their quad singles semi-final at Tokyo 2020 in a match that the Australian described as “the hardest match he's ever played.”
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda secured his eighth US Open title when he overcame Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-1 6-4 in a final that was identical in length to the women’s at 71 minutes. This victory takes his Grand Slam title tally to 46, 25 of those coming in singles.
Kunieda displayed the impressive form that took him to Paralympic glory in Tokyo last week, despite admitting he was feeling fatigued.
“It was very tough because I played Tokyo 2020, then this week US Open, two big tournaments in a row. I really exhausted, very tired. Before the match I felt I couldn't move any more but I entered to the court, then I felt, yes, I can do one more match,” said Kunieda.