Roger and Rafa bring the magic to Cape Town

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Feb 9, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - The Cape Town Stadium is soon become the rugby venue of choice for the Springboks and Stormers, with a British and Irish Lions Test scheduled there for next year.

Apart from the 2010 Fifa World Cup, it has already become the home of the Cape Town Sevens rugby event, and many big names in the music world have performed there – in recent years, Ed Sheeran and Mariah Carey.

But Capetonians and South Africans as a whole would never have expected to see two of the greatest male tennis players in history, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, play there in the Match In Africa, and the impact of such an occasion will be remembered for many years to come.

The tennis itself was cool to watch, even though a strong wind hampered serving and groundstrokes as Federer won 6-4 3-6 6-3 over Nadal, with the Swiss maestro also claiming the doubles win with Bill Gates 6-3 against Nadal and Trevor Noah.

There were some thrilling exchanges when both pros let rip, with Federer’s stylish approach and Nadal’s power apparent. The 20-time Grand Slam champion gave a “Who cares!” reply to a question afterwards about the wind, and noted that the tricky conditions also allowed the duo to play a few unusual shots.

But, of course, Friday night was about so much more than the tennis. The stats will show that there was a world record crowd of 51 954, and that $3.5 million (over R52 million) was raised for the Roger Federer Foundation, which assists children who live in poverty in southern Africa to have a good education.

Federer said it was a “dream come true” to have hosted such a successful event, and that he was emotional when he saw the huge turnout at the start of the doubles match.

“This (crowd) record is one for the people because we need the people – a beautiful stadium is not enough. We need the people to be there to celebrate the moment, celebrate our game,” the 38-year-old said.

“Believe in my vision as well, to some extent, with the Foundation, and Rafa’s. Believe in us as people. And I think that’s why I hope this resonates in a big way. I like seeing good news coming out of Africa, and more so out of South Africa, obviously because of my roots.

“It was a dream come true – I didn’t know exactly how it was going to be, and how it was going to feel. And having my mum there, Siya (Kolisi) there, and everybody who was on the court for the doubles, obviously I thank them a million times – I will never stop thanking them.

“So, ja, that was a unique moment in my life, for sure.”

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s appearance to do the coin toss – where he also presented Federer with a Bok jersey – was met with thunderous applause from the spectators, while Lynette Federer’s impromptu Afrikaans interview on court was lapped up too.

Nadal was asked whether he could eclipse the crowd record by hosting a match in his foundation’s name, but he was gracious enough to let Federer have his moment.

“I don’t know – this is a moment to enjoy tonight. Honestly, it has been an unforgettable time and we had a lot of fun. It’s something special tonight, especially for a very good cause – sending a very positive message to this part of the world,” the 19-time Grand Slam winner said.

“And probably encouraging young people and kids to follow their dreams. So, hopefully this match helps all these good causes and at the same time, we raised a lot of money for kids that really need it. Let’s see in the future what’s going on, but tonight, we had a great time and an unforgettable day.”

A memorable night ended with Federer and Co dancing on court with young members of the local Zip Zap Circus and the Ndlovu Youth Choir, and it was quite appropriate – as it was the main reason everybody was present: to benefit the children of Africa.

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