Roy Emerson

Great Champions

Roy Emerson made an inauspicious debut at the Australian Championships in 1954, losing in the first round to George Worthington. "Apparently I lost the last two sets 6-0 6-0," says Emmo of the match. "Happily senility is setting in and I have no memory of that at all!"

Right-handed six-footer Emerson was slim, quick and famed for his fitness. He won his first major singles title in Melbourne in 1961, defeating Rod Laver in the final. "Emerson's victory will be widely toasted tonight in the little town of Blackbutt, 100 miles north-west of Brisbane where the bronzed super-fit new champion first started the long climb to tennis stardom," reported the Melbourne Age.

While it was the first of seven-consecutive singles finals appearances Down Under, it was another two years before Emerson tasted Grand Slam glory again. Resisting the lure of the professional tour, Emerson's victory over countryman Ken Fletcher in Adelaide in 1963 was the first of five-straight men's singles titles at the Australian Championships.

His victory over Fred Stolle in the 1964 final marked the start of an outstanding year on the amateur circuit during which he notched up a 55-match winning streak, ascended to the world No.1 spot and won 17 tournaments including Wimbledon and the US Championships.

Emerson's 6-4 6-8 6-2 6-3 final win over Arthur Ashe in 1966 was billed as the 'Match of the Year' by the media. He had to fight hard to reach the same stage in 1967, taking 83 games and nearly four hours to battle past Tony Roche in the semifinal before crushing Ashe (who'd endured his own four hour semifinal) 6-4 6-1 6-4.

Winning his record sixth Australian title (and eleventh singles major) in 1967, Emerson broke Bill Tilden's record of 10, and went on to win his 12th major at Roland Garros to set a benchmark that lasted until Pete Sampras recorded his 13th Slam win at Wimbledon in 2000. He remains the only male player in history to have won singles and doubles titles at all four majors and holds 28 Slam titles in total. ​​​​​

Emerson's victory will be widely toasted tonight in the little town of Blackbutt, 100 miles north-west of Brisbane where the bronzed super-fit new champion first started the long climb to tennis stardom.
The Melbourne Age newspaper: 1961