Because he is so fit—he practices incessantly—Emerson is a good bet in a long match. He is also a good advertisement for cigarette smoking, since he has been employed by Philip Morris since 1962. Well, he is just sort of a good advertisement for smoking. Although he scatters packs of Marlboros around with abandon, Emerson smokes like a kid getting the hang of it behind the woodshed. Sometimes he cannot even offer to let you have one of those Marlboros because: "Oh, I think I brought the stale pack with me." It is safe to say that Roy Emerson does not smoke alone.
He was offered the Philip Morris public-relations job mostly because Company President Joseph Cullman III of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. is an amateur tennis enthusiast who wanted to make it easier for Emerson to reject pro temptations. There is nothing sinister about all this, but it is at least ironical that an American company will be most responsible if the Australians take the Davis Cup back from the U.S. in Cleveland two weeks from now. Emerson got a new three-year contract last winter and a raise to about $8,000, which provides enough for a financial base to insure (almost) that he will remain an amateur.
Expediency aside, Emerson also views his job as his future. There is not much work for him to do on the road except drop those Marlboro boxes and "oh, pass out a few cigarettes here and there," but when he is home in Brisbane he works in the office. His efforts have impressed his superiors. "Roy is much smarter than the other Australian players," one older foreign star says. "All of them quit school and just play tennis. They're very nice, but most of them never learn anything. Roy has. He's grown. He'll do all right when he's through playing."
Certainly Philip Morris' stab at pseudosubsidization seems to have been a break for Emerson. Mai Anderson, his brother-in-law and a pro, says, "Top amateurs nowadays make more than the average pro anyway. If Laver hadn't turned pro he could be making $600 to $800 a week in tournaments. If Roy ever decides to turn professional, it won't be just the money. It will be because he wants to prove how good he really is." It is likely, though, that he would not be an immediate pro success and, as un-colorful as he is, he would be absolutely veiled in defeat. Even with his "Rocket Rod" billing, Laver has found a swift professional obscurity.
For purposes of legitimate description and alliteration, Emerson might have been called "Rocket Roy." But the only nickname he has ever picked up embodies all the imagination of calling a champ named Jones "Jonesy." Almost everybody calls the No. 1 player "Emo." "It sounds like a detergent," Emerson says, smiling.
When Emerson smiles—which he does quite a bit—he exposes something like 400 teeth. It is a deceiving mouth, dominating his features when it is open. He is almost handsome, Roddy McDowallish, with fascinating slicked-down hair that never looks greasy and yet never, never gets mussed. Curiously, Emerson looks very much like brother-in-law Anderson, who married Roy's older sister Daphne. Playing each other, the two men have completely unnerved referees. One poor fellow, after a set or so of completely confusing the two, finally got up from his chair in the middle of a game, muttered, "I can't tell you blokes apart," and left the court. Emerson graciously accepted congratulations after Anderson won at Forest Hills in 1957. "Yes," Roy said, "I was seeing them pretty well today." He has that sort of good, dry humor, but he is quite capable of stretching it and can even pull off slick Shelley Berman-type stuff on the phone—calling up Anderson and posing as an old beau of Daphne's or calling up his father and passing himself off as a gentleman interested in promoting tennis for the blind, with bells on the net and the balls.
The Emersons are a close family. Mal and Daphne live across the street from the senior Emersons in Brisbane. Roy, his pretty wife Joy and son Anthony, 17 months, live a couple of miles away in a solid, unpretentious new brick house in Aspley, a newly fashionable Brisbane suburb for rising young executives and professional men.
The Emersons, who have been married for six years, are in Australia only four months a year, from October to February. For a celebrity of his stature, Roy lives a relatively anonymous life. He has never developed into a folk hero the way some Aussie sports stars have. Besides, tennis is not the spectator draw that it was a decade ago. Emerson describes many matches that he played down under as having been watched by "eight dogs and cats and Anthony."
Looking trim and up-and-coming in his business suit, Emerson is seldom recognized on his way to work, and even around the courts he tastes little of the adoration that American athletes receive. Indeed, when someone makes a fuss over him he gets genuinely embarrassed by the whole display. A few weeks ago two Australian tourists suddenly pulled him aside from an open door in Mexico City. "Draft," one explained. "Very bad, you know." "Yes, Emo," the other said, "can't have anything like that." Emerson, at first completely unbalanced by it all, did recover quickly enough to thank the gentlemen for their solicitations, but he never did seem to understand why he was worth all the attention.
Such natural unpretentiousness has made Emerson popular with the other players. He never alibis, seldom squawks at calls and is always particularly polite and socially alert off the court. If the false nature of "shamateurism" forces him to be particularly attracted to an available dollar, he is otherwise refined, composed, a good conversationalist, a good dresser, a good dancer.