Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2013 | AAP

For all he achieved, Roy Emerson may well be Australia’s most unheralded sporting great.

Emerson, who boasts more Grand Slam titles than any man in tennis history, will be honoured at the Australian Open Legends’ Lunch on Saturday.

“Fantastic. It’s an honour to be honoured there. All my friends are going to be there, so it’s going to be great,” Emerson said.

Emerson’s standing in the game has always been difficult to rank because the Queenslander won most of his 12 Grand Slam singles titles in the amateur era after many of his big rivals turned professional.

Tellingly, though, Emerson’s first two majors came with victories over the great Rod Laver at the 1961 Australian and US Championships.

He then lost to Laver in three of the four finals the following year when Laver completed the first of his two fabled calendar-year grand slam sweeps.

Even in the amateur era, Emerson’s career numbers are amazing.

He was the first man to win the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US titles at least twice and remains one of only seven to secure all four majors, joining Fred Perry, Don Budge, Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

All up, he won 28 Grand Slam titles, including 16 doubles crowns.

Until Pete Sampras and then Federer came along, Emerson held the men’s record for most singles Grand Slams.

Sampras finally eclipsed Emerson’s dozen with victory over Pat Rafter at Wimbledon in 2000 before setting the new benchmark tally of 14 with one final success at the 2002 US Open.

Federer, now with 17 majors to his credit, levelled Sampras at the 2009 French Open before surpassing him at Wimbledon the following month.

“Records are to be broken,” Emerson said.

“But I was very proud that I’d won that many singles and that many doubles Grand Slams.

“I knew that the singles one would be broken because of the class of the people coming up like Sampras.

Emerson, now 76 and living in Newport Beach, California – when he’s not in Switzerland – still considers winning Wimbledon for the first time, with victory over fellow Australian Fred Stolle in 1964, as his career highlight.

“That’s what every player dreamt of in our day, winning Wimbledon,” he said.

“It was the greatest tournament. Winning your own Australian Championship was awfully big too, and Davis Cup meant a lot to me.

“But Wimbledon certainly stands out. I had the shakes when I had to serve for the match, wanting to win Wimbledon so badly.”