Australian wheelchair tennis star Heath Davidson reflects on future after Dylan Alcott retires
It’s a difficult task to find someone to replace Dylan Alcott.
At least that’s the challenge for Heath Davidson, the man tasked with leading Australian wheelchair tennis onto the world circuit as attention turns from the red earth of Roland Garros to the green grass of Wimbledon.
- Davidson was the only Australian to leave Roland Garros with silverware
- Four-time Australian Open doubles champion says tour is ‘different’ and ‘silent’ without Dylan Alcott
- Davidson was ruled out of retirement after his French Open debut
Last week’s French Open was Davidson’s first time at a Grand Slam event without his best friend Alcott, who retired after the Australian Open in January, just two days after being named Australian of the Year 2022.
Davidson is the highest-ranked Australian and the only one to win silverware at Roland Garros, regardless of format. debut at the event.
“I’m pretty glad I got to bring home some silverware, and my first big piece of silverware without Dyl,” Davidson said.
“We didn’t expect us to make the final in doubles… [I’m] really happy to finally be able to play [at the French Open].”
Turn ‘a bit’ quieter without Alcott
Being the only Australian in the quads section of the Grand Slam draw – and one of the few Australians remaining through all of the week two draws – is unfamiliar territory for Davidson.
“He’s a calm man. It’s different…it’s really weird because Dylan and I have been friends for 20-21 years and I’ve never played tennis without Dylan, so this year it’s very different,” he said.
“We had some FaceTime last week. He called me because he watched my singles match against Koji (Sugeno) and he kind of said to me on the phone, ‘Where was that guy? We would have been able to use it for the past five years!’
“It’s just different. Not better, not worse. But yeah, it’s just a little calmer, I guess you could say.”
With Alcott gone, Davidson has had to adjust to being in the spotlight at Roland Garros, and he now looks to Wimbledon later in the month.
As a leader on the pitch alongside new teammate ‘Mani’, he continues to develop his craft even at 35.
“It’s a very different role. I’m not used to being ‘the general’ on the pitch and pulling the strings,” he said.
“I like playing with Mani. I think it’s a really different role for me because I’ve always been sort of, I don’t mean the guy in the shadows, but I let Dylan do his thing.
“I had my role, he had his, and I think we’ve done that pretty well for so long. But now that I’m not playing with Dylan anymore, I think I’ve become more of the captain on the pitch.
“But I’m enjoying it right now… it makes me grow as a tennis player, I think more than anything.
“Being the one to navigate what we do on the pitch and stuff like that helps me learn new skills on the pitch and make me a better player.”
Davidson talked about his retirement by the best in the world
The four-time Australian Open doubles champion, now in the twilight of his career, has admitted he was ruled out of retirement last week following a loss to world number one Niels Vink of the Netherlands.
“[I said]’If I keep playing for another 10 years, you’re probably going to have a really good head-to-head record against me and I don’t want that.'”
For now, Davidson can still cut it with the rest despite the rigors of the world tour and the lure of coming home.
“I’m getting older. Personally, I spend an average of five to six months a year,” he said.
“But I don’t know, man. After last week, I’m starting to think maybe I can go on a little longer.”
“If I keep playing tennis, the way I play and improve and I can hang out with these guys, then there’s a ray of hope for me hanging out. So we’ll see what happens.”
“And the other silver lining is that I convince Dylan to come back.
A passion for developing disability sports for the next generation
For the first time, the French Open opened its draw to eight competitors in singles.
Davidson is passionate about seeing the sport grow and inspiring the next generation in disability sports.
In May, he was hitting twice a week with Australia’s wheelchair juniors, who went on to win the World Cup team title.
“It’s really cool that all the slams – and even watching quad tennis and even normal wheelchair tennis – are opening up draw sizes to give people more opportunities and show everyone who we are. professional athletes,” he said.
“I think we are doing very well at home. If I can help in any way, encourage disabled children to get out onto the pitch, then I would be more than happy.”