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A few local aficionados will recognise the 52-year-old tennis court builder from Sydney. However, plenty of spectators who see him on one of the outside courts in the seniors tournament at the Australian Open will need the help of the scoreboard.

The face will become more familiar on Friday when, in a ceremony in the Rod Laver Arena on Australia Day, Mark Edmondson will become the latest inductee into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. A bronze bust will be unveiled and placed alongside those of Lew Hoad, Margaret Smith, Laver and other Australian greats in Garden Square at Melbourne Park.

Edmondson's name tends to be recalled these days as much for what followed - or, to be more precise, what did not follow - his finest hour as for his actual achievement. In 1976, he pulled off one of the greatest shocks in the sport's history by beating his countryman, the great John Newcombe, in the Australian Open final on grass at Kooyong.

Edmondson had been working as a window cleaner shortly before the tournament and remains the lowest-ranked player - at No 212 in the world - ever to win a Grand Slam.

He is the last Australian to win the men's singles title in Melbourne. In 1976, given the apparently endless flow of Australian talent, few would have predicted such an outcome.

It is still remarkable that the likes of Pat Cash and Pat Rafter never lifted their home trophy.

Even the current standard-bearer, Lleyton Hewitt, has yet to add the Australian crown to his Wimbledon and US Open titles.

The saga of disappointments is a stick with which the country's ruling body is regularly beaten.

While Tennis Australia points out that Aussies have won other Grand Slams and enjoyed Davis Cup success, critics of its development programme point to the fact that Hewitt (ranked No 19) is the only Australian man in the world's top 100. Samantha Stosur (27) and Nicole Pratt (72) are the only women and both are out of the Open already.

It is a far cry from the days when Australia vied with the US as the world's most powerful tennis nation. When Edmondson was growing up, Laver, Newcombe and Roy Emerson were dominating the game, continuing the work of Hoad, Ken Rosewall and Neale Fraser. As luck would have it, Charlie Hollis, Laver's coach, came to live in Edmondson's home town of Gosford in New South Wales.

"I just did everything he told me to," Edmondson said. "I thought: 'If that's what his coaching did for Laver, then it will do for me'." He enjoyed some success as a junior and, after leaving school, Edmondson decided to try his luck on the tennis circuit. He took odd jobs between tournaments to raise enough money to play abroad.

"It wasn't necessarily with the goal of becoming a full-time professional," he said. "If you did well, you might stay abroad for six months. If you didn't, maybe it would be only three months because you'd run out of money. Even when I was the No 3 junior in Australia, I didn't get any financial help from Tennis Australia. They just didn't have the money."

In the build-up to his Australian Open win, Edmondson could not afford even to fly around Australia on the domestic circuit. "I decided I would stay home and practise, get a job and try to put another $500 in my pocket, which would be my air fare for another trip to Europe.

"My sister was working at a local hospital and I went in there and said: 'I can clean windows and polish floors.' It was just a casual job. But two days into it, I got a call from Tennis Australia. They couldn't get enough players to go to the Tasmanian Open and asked if I'd go if they paid my air fare and accommodation. I jumped at it and told the hospital I could only work till the end of the week.

"I won the tournament but I was ranked No 212 and I was one of the last acceptances into the Australian Open, thanks to people dropping out. I don't think the general public knew about me. Nor did some of the players. The top guys were playing in the world's biggest tournaments but I was playing on the riff-raff circuit."

However, as Edmondson made steady progress at the Australian Open, some of the other players started to take notice. "I'd watched John Newcombe hundreds of times on television but I'd never actually met him," Edmondson recalled. "I first spoke to him on quarter-finals day. He asked me if I wanted to have a hit.

"At first I thought: 'Isn't that wonderful? Here's the great John Newcombe asking if one of the youngsters wants to go and have a hit with him.' But he was probably being very professional and thinking: 'He's in the other side of the draw to me and if he gets to the final against me, I haven't got a clue what he plays like'."

Edmondson reached the final by beating Rosewall in four sets. Newcombe, with seven Grand Slam singles titles to his name, was the overwhelming favourite but at 31, he was giving Edmondson 10 years in testing conditions. The match started in 42-degree heat. The first two sets were shared but in the third, the umpire suspended play due to a sudden storm. The match resumed in a fierce wind. Newcombe led 6-4 in the third set tie-break but missed an easy volley after failing to allow for the wind and lost the set with a double-fault. Edmondson went on to win 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1.

"I was used to playing in front of two dogs and a cat - and maybe an umpire. Playing in front of several thousand people on centre court was all new to me, so I had to try to block it out. I concentrated on what I thought I might be able to do and, unbelievably, it worked.

"We shook hands at the end. I think he just said: 'Well done.' He probably sat down and thought to himself: 'How could I lose to that guy?'

"I was very raw, though I'd won a lot in the previous six months. I had nothing to lose and he hadn't had a chance to figure me out."

The Melbourne prize-money paid for Edmondson's travel for the next year and meant he did not have to go back to cleaning windows. His ranking rose to 56, which earned entry into most of the biggest tournaments.

The closest he came to another Grand Slam singles crown was in 1982, when he lost in straight sets to Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon semifinals. He helped his country win the Davis Cup in 1983 and won five more singles titles, reaching No 15 in the world. He enjoyed greater success in doubles, winning 34 titles, including Roland Garros and Melbourne.

"My goal at the start of my career was to play well enough to travel the world for a few years," he said. "I was one of the few players who would go sightseeing. I always thought: 'I might never get the chance to come back here.' It was a wonderful privilege to play the game professionally.

"I just thought it would be pretty good if I could finish my career and have enough money to buy a house with a tennis court, a pool and a view of some blue."

Edmondson lives in Sydney, where he builds tennis courts and supplies artificial sports surfaces. He will have a hip replacement next month but that will not keep him from the seniors tournament at Melbourne.

"I won't be running around too well but I'll enjoy it," he said.

- INDEPENDENT