Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott was reduced to tears by a text from Andy Murray after his retirement from quad wheelchair tennis.
The seven-time Australian Open champion lost his last ever match in the final to Sam Schroder of the Netherlands 7-5 6-0 in the Rod Laver Arena.
The match was shown live on Australian TV – and delayed the start of the 6pm news.
Melburnian Alcott, 31, said his swansong was very different from his debut here in 2014 which was watched by five people before the Scot texted him during his press conference.
“This just sums up how it’s changed,” he said.
“I hope he doesn’t mind this, but Andy Murray just messaged me: ‘I don’t know if I have articulated that well, but you’re an absolute rock star and inspiration. Thanks for everything you’ve done’.
That kills me. Makes me want to cry. Special. You’re part of it. Just part of it. Like I don’t even care you’re in a wheelchair. They don’t give a ****.
It’s special. It’s so nice. It’s like that everywhere here. I never thought that would happen. It’s cool, really cool. It’s better than winning a tennis tournament.
This is a legend of the sport, wheelchair tennis. If it’s good enough for someone like that, it’s good enough for everyone.”
Alcott was voted Australian of the Year this week for his work for disability rights
“I am really the luckiest guy in the world. I didn’t need to win today to realise that,” he said.
“It’s about changing perceptions so more people with disability get their opportunity.
Alfie Hewett lost 7-5 3-6 6-2 to Shingo Kunieda in the final of the wheelchair men’s singles.
Fellow Australian Ashleigh Barty, meanwhile, also sang Alcott’s praises after her semi-final victory over Madison Keys.
“He’s inspired a nation, he’s inspired the whole globe,” she said. “We were watching his match today and I was with my physio about an hour before coming out and when he was saying his acceptance speech we were both crying. I was like s**t like I need to get out here and get ready, get a game on.
“But I just wanted to watch Dylan. For him to be able to share that moment with so many people here. And like you said you look around and the way that he and the Australian Open have worked together to open up the opportunities for disabled people all around the world to play tennis and to have a go is just exceptional. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”