20-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer plays his first-ever match in Sub Saharan Africa against 19-time Grand Slam Champion and rival Rafael Nadal at a sold-out Cape Town Stadium. The match is being played to support children’s education in Africa. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in full flight at Cape Town Stadium was a sight to behold for the 50 000 world-record crowd on Friday night, and they were royally entertained in the Match In Africa extravaganza.

After Federer and Bill Gates won the doubles match 6-3 against Nadal and Trevor Noah, the Swiss master triumphed again in the singles, claiming a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory in windy conditions.

But while the tennis served up was a treat, the bigger motivation for the event was to raise funds for the Roger Federer Foundation, as well as place the spotlight on the sport in South Africa.

Federer stated that $1 million (about R14.8 million) was the target, with his foundation working to provide a better education for children in southern Africa and Switzerland.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in full flight at Cape Town Stadium was a sight to behold for the 50 000 world-record crowd. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Both players expressed their gratitude to the crowd for coming out, and there was also a special moment when Springbok captain Siya Kolisi walked on to the court to present Federer with a Bok jersey with his surname and the number eight on it.

The spectators roared in approval as Federer immediately pulled on the jersey, and also completed the warm-up routine in it.

Then the two legends put on the show they promised on court, and Federer made his intentions clear early on by breaking Nadal’s serve in the very first game, and managed to hold serve all the way through himself.

He had to see off a break point in the eighth game to lead 5-3 following a thrilling exchange with the Spaniard, and kept his nerve to close it out 6-4.

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The strong wind proved to be a major hindrance, with Nadal telling Trevor Noah at one changeover about how tough it was to control the ball. Playing on the right-hand side with the wind behind them was especially tricky, as their shots would often float over the baseline as a result.

Nadal meant business in the second set, racing into a 4-1 lead after three consecutive service breaks between the two, with Federer holding his serve for the first time in only the sixth game.

After the 33-year-old levelled matters by taking the second set 6-3, it looked like he had the momentum.

But it was his 38-year-old opponent who came out of the blocks quickly in the final set as Federer claimed two early breaks to lead 4-1.

Perhaps he was smarting from a question posed to him beforehand that Nadal has been the only one to beat him in the five previous Match In Africa events – to which he replied “I better get him this time!” – but Federer did the necessary to finish things off 6-3.

The day was about so much more than the tennis, though. The fact that Federer could make the match against Nadal happen in the country of birth of his mother Lynette is an historic moment in South Africa’s history.

May it spark the revitalisation of the sport in Mzansi…



IOL Sport

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