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Tennis:

Giving back still Emerson’s goal

Hall of Famer, who lives in Newport Beach, is behind upcoming Adoption Guild tourney.

April 05, 2010|By Cesar Gonzalez

On a dairy farm in Queensland, Australia, Roy Emerson played on his own tennis court, made up of the dirt from ant hills and featuring chicken wire for the net.

Tennis humbly came for Emerson when he was a boy and it hasn’t left him since.

It was because of tennis he left that farm. He also met his wife, Joy, because of tennis and he made a life of the sport.

Now, the 73-year-old Newport Beach resident, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, continues to find ways to give back to the game. For the 10th straight year, he’s the face of the Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic, the 49th annual event that begins in Newport Beach May 28 to 31. The semifinals are schedule for June 5 and the finals on June 6.

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Registration is underway at adoptionguild.org.

“It’s all for charity,” he says. “It’s all for a good cause.”

Emerson plans to be a big part of the tournament for the next two months. Tennis has always been prominent in his life, ever since playing on that homemade court in Australia.

Back then, there was plenty of work to do, feeding the pigs and milking the cows, yet Emerson still found time to play tennis. It was his ticket to a grander life. Apparently, it was how an Australian boy became a Hall of Famer.

In 1982, he was inducted into the International Hall of Fame. He had accomplished more than any tennis player had during his era.

Emerson, who retired in 1973, is the only player to have won singles and doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events. He won 28 Grand Slam championships, including 16 doubles titles. The 28 Grand Slam titles is the all-time record for a male player. His closest competitor is Roger Federer, who has 16.

“Well I knew I had a chance to be inducted,” Emerson said, “because I won so many grand slams.”

Tennis started for Emerson on the dairy farm, but he gained a breakthrough of sorts in 1953, when he was a team manager – “the water boy,” he says – for the Australian Davis Cup team in 1953. He later played for the team.

As a member of the Davis Cup team, Emerson traveled and practiced with the squad. He also gained valuable experience.

He was on his way.

In addition, a year before his introduction to the Davis Cup team, Emerson met his wife in Brisbane at an age titles tournament.

“It was love at first sight,” Joy said. “He was the ball boy in the U16 match final I was in.”

When they met, Emerson had found his two loves.

He played in tournaments around the world, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open among others.

“I wanted to make tennis a career,” said Emerson, known to many as “Emmo.” “I did not want to go back to the farm.”

The farm was far behind during his Grand Slam run from 1961 to 1967, during which he won the 12 Grand Slam singles titles, six in the Australian Open. He also won the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open twice.

— Steve Virgen contributed to this story


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