05/03/2024

The best rivalry in tennis in the past 12 months will add another two chapters when Sam Schroder (NED) and Dylan Alcott (AUS) face off in two gold medal matches this week. Photo: ITF Tennis - Twitter

The best rivalry of 2021 - Dylan Alcott and Sam Schroder will go head to head twice in the coming days in the Wheelchair Quad Singles and Doubles finals at the Paralympics.

Tennis’ best rivalry of 2021 will add another two chapters in the coming nights as Dylan Alcott and Sam Schroder face off in the Quad Wheelchair Doubles and Singles Gold Medal Matches at the Paralympics this week.

The first will come in the form of the Quad Wheelchair Doubles Final, with Alcott teaming up with long time friend Heath Davidson to claim their second consecutive Paralympic gold. But they’ll have to beat the combination from the Netherlands of Schroder and Niels Vink.

Neither Alcott of Schroder have had the best of luck on the tour this year in the doubles. Alongside Davidson, Alcott claimed the Australian Open Doubles title, however, at the French Open and Wimbledon the rivals teamed up and lost in the final to Andy Lapthorne and David Wagner in three-set matches.

The 2021 Australian Open semi-final was the last each team faced one another with Alcott and Davidson winning in straight sets on the day (6-3, 7[7]-6[4]).

The road to the Gold Medal Match was a short one for Alcott and Davidson, qualifying as the top seed the pair were straight through to the semi-final, where they faced Japan’s Mitsuteru Moroishi and Koji Sugeno, winning in straight sets (6-2, 6-4).

Schroder and Vink had an extra step on their journey to the Gold Medal Match, in the quarter-final the second seed faced another legend of Quad Wheelchair tennis, David Wagner, the 2004-2012 Doubles Paralympic Gold Medalist, and his new partner Bryan Barten (USA). The Dutch team had very little trouble cruising to victory (2-6, 6-1) and the path to gold became clearer.

The semifinal for the pair was against Great Britain’s Antony Cotterill and Andy Lapthorne. Lapthorne in partnership with Wagner has been a thorn in Schroder’s side this year, but apart and with his countryman Vink, he was able to cruise to another victory (0-6, 2-6) to set up the Gold Medal Match everyone was waiting for.

Tonight’s match will be a battle between one of the greatest players and combinations of all time and the future of Quad Wheelchair Tennis.

Alcott (30) and Davidson (34) could very well be at their last Paralympics and while they’ve already made history together winning four Australian Opens in the Doubles discipline, a second Paralympic gold will be front of mind.

Meanwhile, the sky is the limit for Schroder (21) and Vink (18), Schroder is one of just two players to beat Alcott in the past two years, claiming the 2020 US Open title in the process and Vink is on the cusp of being a regular feature in the Quad Wheelchair Singles draw at each of the four Grand Slams. To beat two of the best will only push both further in what could be prosperous careers for both athletes.

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The second will be the Quad Wheelchair Singles Gold Medal match which will be the fourth time that Alcott and Schroder will play one another in the final this year.

The Australian has certainly had the upper hand this year winning all three majors this year in straight sets. But there’s more than just another title on the line this time around for Alcott.

The Golden Slam – winning all four Grand Slams and Olympic or Paralympic gold in a calendar year – has eluded all but one player (Steffi Graf, 1988) and this year Alcott is one of two players on the tour with the dream still alive. Diede de Groot will also be looking to close out her own Golden Slam in the Women’s Wheelchair Singles.

Alcott closed out the Career Golden Slam in 2019 when the first edition of the Quad Wheelchair Singles titles at the French Open and Wimbledon was on offer, but this year is the first time the Golden Slam has been a possibility and with just two titles to go this last match there’s never been a more important match to win.

Getting to the Gold Medal Match was tougher than it has been all year for Alcott, breezing past his first-round opponent Japan’s Mitsuteru Moroishi (6-0, 6-2) and the United States’ Bryan Barten (6-0, 6-1) in the quarter-final.

It was none other than Niels Vink in the semi-final that served up a performance that would make Alcott really dig deep to win the final. It was the first time Alcott dropped a set in Singles for 2021 and while he managed to rally late the youngster never let it seem like the match was a foregone conclusion (6-4, 3-6, 6-4).

Schroder on the other hand has yet to lose a set and appears to have developed his game further since the loss at Wimbledon in early July. He dismantled Israel’s Yosi Saadon in the first round (1-6, 2-6) before cleaning up Davidson in the quarter-final (2-6, 1-6) and while Koji Sugeno of Japan was the biggest challenge he’s faced at the Paralympics thus far he had little trouble advancing to the final (2-6, 3-6).

This won’t be the last meeting for the two for 2021, as it’s likely following the Paralympics both will be chasing the US Open title in a weeks time, with Schroder looking to defend his US Open title from 2020 and Alcott wanting to win all four Grand Slams for the year.

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