CAPE TOWN: History was made this past Friday here when a crowd of 51,954 witness a highly-anticipated tennis game dubbed Match in Africa between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Federer beat Nadal in a three-set contest by 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 at Cape Town Stadium.
It was a world record crowd for a tennis match, breaking the record set in November 2019 when Federer defeated Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Mexico City in front of 42, 517 fans. It was the sixth instalment of exhibition matches for Federer’s foundation.
After the match, the organisers revealed that the exhibition match raised $3, 5m for the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa, the home country of Federer’s mother.
Before the main match, tennis fans from all over the world that were predominantly white, were treated to a salivating celebrity doubles match.
Federer teamed up with billionaire and Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates to beat Nadal and The Daily Show host, South African comedian Trevor Noah 6-3 in a one-set doubles exhibition.
The homeboy, Noah who wore a pink shirt was entertaining the crowd with jokes during the match and made the whole experience worthwhile.
Noah said it was befitting for him to partner with the Spaniard Nadal because the latter’s country won the FIFA world cup for the very first time on African soil in 2010. Thereafter, it was the main match, the reason everyone travelled half across the world to see one of the greatest tennis rivalries in history now on African soil.
Federer took the lead in the very first game of the match and from there it went on serve for the remainder of the set. For a moment there, some of Rafa’s fans had a feeling that the 19-time grand slam winner was not giving out his all since it was Federer’s exhibition match after all.
Since Federer could not consolidate the break, he allowed the Spaniard to break again for a 3-1 lead in the next game.
Nadal gained momentum and would not surrender the advantage and took the set
Overall, it was a high-spirited match and the Springbok World Cup-winning captain, Siya Kolisi made a surprise entrance on court to do the pre-game coin toss. Kolisi gave Federer a Springbok jersey with the Swiss star’s name embroidered on the back, and the 20-time Grand Slam winner ended up wearing the jersey number 8 shirt throughout the match.
After the match, Federer said it was a pleasure to share the court with Rafa again, but for the first time here in beautiful Cape Town in South Africa. For his part, Rafa revealed to the Supersport presenter that he absolutely enjoyed The Match in Africa as he described it as a “lifetime experience”. “It is not my first time playing in South Africa. I played here when I was a kid but it is my first time as a professional player. I want to say well done to Roger and all of his family. The organisation of this event has been just fantastic. It has been a big pleasure to be a part of it,” he highlighted.
Also spotted at the event in the VIP was Botswana’s Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Development Tumiso Rakgare. A Supersport presenter came over to Rakgare to ask him about his impression of the doubles match and he said he was impressed by Gates’s performance. Rolex presented the Match in Africa, with official sponsors being Credit Suisse, Moët & Chandon, Lipton and Stella Artois. Mercedes-Benz was an official supplier for the event.