Cape Town - It’s been a dream come true for a 95-year old Upington grandmother when she was told that she would see her tennis hero Rafael Nadal live in action at the Cape Town Stadium.
Nineteen-time Grand Slam champion Nadal and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer will compete in the first tennis match to be held at the stadium on Friday. The superstars will be joined by philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah.
Nadal will play Federer in a sold-out exhibition match to raise funds for charities across Africa. The Match in Africa will be the 6th edition of the event but will be the first to be played in Africa.
Mama Lila, as she is fondly called, said her dream was made possible by the Roger Federer Foundation, when her son in-law Riedewhan Davids wrote a letter telling them of her wish. Davids said the family tried to buy tickets online but wasn’t quick enough. The 50000 tickets were sold out within 15 minutes.
Lilian Witbooi, an avid tennis player in her younger days, was left devastated despite her family’s fierce efforts to obtain tickets. Davids said his mother-in law thought her dream had become a reality after she heard Nadal was coming to Cape Town. A few family members had stood in line at Computicket when the tickets went on sale, he said.
“In spite of being online before 9am, the opening time of the sales, and two of us on the phone trying to get through to Computicket, all was in vain as the tickets were sold out in 15 minutes. She was devastated, heartbroken and disappointed,” he explained in the letter.
Davids wrote to the foundation on behalf of Witbooi, requesting that they consider her should a wheelchair ticket be made available.
In the letter he said: “As she was a tennis player in her much younger days she liked what she saw in the young man and has been following his progress ever since. It has always been her wish to see him in action”
Two days after sending the letter, Computicket contacted him to say that a wheelchair ticket was available for her and her assistant.
“Her reaction was indescribable. She was ecstatic. The best thing that happened in all her life, those were her words. She cried when she received the news. The family was so thankful after the initial disappointment.”
Mama Lila said: “I’m very excited. I keep packing and unpacking. I keep wishing I could meet Nadal. I just wish he wins and I wish I could take a photo with him.”
“The first time I saw him play was about 12 years ago. He doesn’t just hit the ball, he plays tennis.”