Class of 1982
World No. 1 (1964)
Grand Slam Results
28-time major champion, 17-time finalist
Open Era Career Record
Overall Record: 600-220
Singles Record: 396-155
Doubles Record: 204-65
Member of the Australian Davis Cup team 1959-1967
Member of the Australian Championship Davis Cup Team 1959-1962, 1964-1967
Overall Record 34-4
Singles Record 21-2
Doubles Record 13-2
In the 1960s, when an endless array of Australian men’s tennis players dominated the major tournament circuit, winning 32 of 40 major singles championships, Roy Emerson was the ring-leader, winning 12 of them himself. His name was linked to a male record 28 major titles (16 won in doubles), during his ten-year stretch of near invincibility on all surfaces.
Growing up on a dairy farm in Queensland, Australia, and being responsible for milking the cows each morning made Emerson’s wrist and forearm strong. With a tennis court on the property, he had an early foray into the game. He was popularly known as “Emmo,” especially among his Aussie Davis Cup teammates, who he helped win eight championships from 1959-67 while compiling a stunning 34-4 record. On tour, and especially at the Australian Championships, he was a popular player to face. Nine of his 28 majors were won in Melbourne during his record-setting career. He won a record six Australian singles titles and five consecutively from 1963 to 1967, standing alone all-time at that major. Emerson’s resume of accomplishments runs deeper. To wit:
An integral component of Harry Hopman’s stable of Aussies who ruled tennis with an assortment of playing styles, Emerson was primarily a serve-and-volley specialist who thoroughly ruled doubles competition, appearing in a stunning 30 Grand Slam doubles finals, winning 16 of them. Six straight doubles championships came at the French (1960-65), four at the U.S. Nationals (1959, 1960, 1965-66) and three each at the Australian (1962, 1966, 1969), and Wimbledon (1959, 1961, 1971). Emerson wasn’t picky who he shared the trophy with. He teamed with compatriots to win 15 of 16 titles; seven with Neale Fraser, four with Fred Stolle, three with Rod Laver, one with Ken Fletcher, and one with Spain’s Manolo Santana. In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer wrote, “Emerson was the best doubles player of all the moderns, very possibly the best forehand player of all time. He was so quick he could cover everything. He had the perfect doubles shots, a backhand that dipped over the net and came in at the server’s feet as he moved to net.”
As a group, the Aussies were a gregarious group, but Emerson may have been the most affable and likeable. His persona, however, changed dramatically on the court. Perhaps it was the stern coaching he received from Hopman or his own internal fortitude, but Emerson was competitive and focused come match time. The statistics are conclusive. In major singles finals he won 80 percent of the time (12 of 15) and in doubles play he won 53 percent (16 of 30).
Emerson was fluid and agile on court, due largely to his focus on fitness and conditioning, all trademarks of the Hopman philosophy. “Harry said get yourself in shape and do well in the majors because a win there goes in the record books,” Emerson said. “I took heed of that.” He had a deceptively big serve, especially difficult on grass, and his attacking game put pressure on his opponent to make good shots, otherwise his punctuating volleys would end points quickly. He claimed that his backhand was his strongest shot, but he was being especially modest. Emerson didn’t have any weaknesses.
He won his debut major singles title in 1961, appropriately at the Australian, defeating Laver in four sets. He conquered Laver later that summer at the U.S. Nationals, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. In his next three finals appearances, all in 1962, Laver defeated him each time at the Australian, French, and U.S. Nationals. Starting in 1963 he had a spectacular run, which included five titles at the Australian, two at the French, and Wimbledon and one at the U.S. His doubles partner Stolle had both the fortune and misfortune of having to face Emerson in five major finals, and although he pushed Emmo to five sets at Wimbledon in 1964 and five at the 1965 Australian, he never came away a champion when facing his mate.
Emerson made the leap to professional tennis in 1968, just before the Open Era, and won three singles and 30 doubles events. Overall, he captured 103 combined titles, 88 of them as an amateur. He was a player-coach with the World Team Tennis Boston Lobsters in 1978.
Emerson was ranked in the world Top 10 nine times between 1959-1967, ascending to the No. 1 position in 1964 and 1965 and No. 2 in 1961-1962, 1967.
Emerson was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1986. A few additional honors from his homeland followed. For being a “wonderful competitor and outstanding sportsman,” he was presented with the Australian Sports Medal in 2000. For service to Australian Society through the sport of tennis, Emerson was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001. He was inducted into his native Queensland Sport Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Roy Emerson Tennis Centre in Milton was revamped bearing his name in 2014. The complex was shared with doubles partner Fletcher with a pair of sculptured busts honoring the duo that won 11 of the 13 doubles finals they contested in 1964.
Australian Championships: W 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967
French Championships: W 1963, 1967
Wimbledon: W 1964, 1965
U.S. Nationals: W 1961, 1964
Australian Championships: W 1962, 1966, 1969
French Championships: W 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
Wimbledon: W 1959, 1961, 1971
U.S. Nationals: W 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966
Australian Championships: F 1956
French Championships: F 1960
Wimbledon: SF 1957
U.S. Nationals: QF 1959