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Emerson all set to be overtaken by Federer

Australian tennis legend Roy Emerson says he will cheer Roger Federer on when the Swiss tries to equal his 12 grand slam singles titles at the upcoming US Open.

But Federer’s hard-fought victory over Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon has prompted many commentators to wonder if the Swiss champion’s days at the top are numbered.

The 70-year-old Australian, who won titles at all four grand slam events back in the days before professionals were allowed to take part, is convinced that the Swiss will go on to better Pete Sampras’s all-time record of 14 titles.

“I have no doubts at all that he will overtake me, and go on to break Sampras’s record too,” Emerson told swissinfo at his workplace in the Swiss resort of Gstaad, where he is running his annual summer tennis clinics.

“As long as Federer keeps himself free of injuries I just can’t see it not happening. He is pretty much a class above all the other players right now, apart from maybe Rafael Nadal who is just starting to give him some headaches.”

Nadal, the Spanish world number two, has so far beaten Federer in eight of their 13 meetings. He has also beaten Federer three times at the French Open – the only one of the four grand slam tournaments to elude the Swiss champion.

“Nadal certainly played better at Wimbledon than he did the previous year but as long as Federer keeps serving well he’s still going to be odds on to beat Nadal,” said Emerson.

Really the best?

Despite all the praise being heaped on the world number one, though, the Australian legend finds it harder to say if Federer is the best player of all time. For one thing there is that small matter of the French Open.

“I think there will be a lot of tennis purists who would say that unless Federer can win the French then he’s not a complete player, because he hasn’t won the one on clay yet,” he pointed out.

“Personally I thought his big chance of winning the French was this year, especially after he finally managed to beat Nadal on clay just before in Hamburg.”

Emerson admits it’s a difficult question also because you’ve got to take all the players over the years and consider the different equipment they had to use.

“It’s clear though that Federer is awfully good,” he added.

Singles and doubles champion

As long as the Swiss remains on 11 grand slam titles, Emerson can still claim to be the most successful tennis player living in Switzerland.

As well as his annual tennis clinics, the 70-year-old Australian maintains a home in the resort, continuing a love affair with the village that began during his playing days.

Emerson won the Swiss Open title on five occasions and also played his last professional match in Gstaad – losing in the first round of the 1973 Swiss Open at the age of 42. His service to the tournament has been recognised with the centre court renamed as the Roy Emerson Arena.

One record that Federer will surely struggle to come close to is Emerson’s overall number of grand slam titles in both singles and doubles. With 16 doubles titles under his belt, the Australian has won a staggering total of 28 Grand Slam trophies, putting him far beyond any other male tennis player.

In that regard at least, Emerson should be able to look down on the Swiss star from the heights of Gstaad for quite a while longer.

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Gstaad

Sampras grand slam titles: Australian Open 1994, 1997, Wimbledon, 1993-5, 1997-2000, US Open 1990, 1993, 1995-6, 2002.
Emerson grand slam titles: Australian Open 1961, 1963-7, French Open 1963, 1967, Wimbledon 1964-5, US Open 1961, 1964.
Federer grand slam titles: Australian Open 2004, 2006-7, Wimbledon 2003-7, US Open 2004-6.

Roy Emerson won his 12 grand slam singles titles in a seven-year spell stretching from 1961-67, when the grand slam events were still only open to amateur players.

He is the only player to have won singles and doubles titles at all four of the majors.

Following the admission of professionals in 1968, few thought that Emerson’s singles record would ever be beaten – until American Pete Sampras came along to set a new benchmark of 14 in 2000.

Switzerland’s current world number one Roger Federer clinched his 11th grand slam title at Wimbledon earlier this month to equal Björn Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledon victories.

Federer’s first opportunity to equal Emerson’s 12 grand slam titles will come at the US Open, which gets underway on August 27.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR