For the 51 945 people who made their way to Cape Town Stadium on Friday 7 February for the Match In Africa, it was a day which will not be easily forgotten.
The figure, a new world record attendance for a single tennis match, also helped contribute to the $3.5 million (approximately R54.6 million) donated to the Roger Federer Foundation, which will be used to support education in rural South Africa.
The amount of money also surpassed the figures achieved in the previous five editions of this event (known previously as the Match For Africa).
The tennis match between 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and his great rival, 19-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, almost took a back seat, which saw the duo on a whirlwind tour of the City, starting with Federer’s arrival in Cape Town on Wednesday 5 February, and included an impromptu warm-up session between the two on the Grand Parade.
Preceding the match on Friday, both Federer and Nadal also took part in a play session with children from Hangberg pre-primary school in Hout Bay.
The aim was to teach the children through various physical activities, combining language, motor skills and perception.
Following his practice session with Nadal, Federer reminisced on his previous visits to South Africa, which is his mother’s country of birth.
“I don’t remember playing here in Cape Town 20 years ago, because I was on vacation and you rest your body. When I was little, I was playing in Joburg and other places where I was travelling. I remember I got a racquet from my parents here when I was little. After all this time it has gotten to this and to play in a stadium like this it is beautiful and my mom is very happy right now.”
Federer would go on to team up with Bill Gates in a celebrity doubles match against Nadal and his partner, Trevor Noah, which was won 6-3 by Federer and Gates, who dubbed themselves “Gateserer”.
The result was of little consequence as the four kept the crowd entertained with witty quips as they had themselves mic’d up for the crowd and audience at home to listen in on.
“At the end of the day I think doing things together, this is actually in a way what we are doing tonight, we are all getting together for a good cause and to see what comes out of it. If I am alone out here, I cannot fill a stadium, but with the three other guys I can,” Federer said before the match.
Tickets to the event were sold out within 10 minutes and Federer said he’s open to collaborating for future charitable efforts.
“It is important to share information and to see where the synergies are and how we can do things together. At the end of the day, we are all seeking the impact, not for personal glory or legacy. We are here to leave a profound impact on kids’ lives and if that happens that we can do things together and we know each other and we get along, it is a win-win-win.”
Federer would go on to beat his great rival Nadal in three competitive sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, but the result was of little consequence as the cause outweighed any performance.
“Just one of these days that you don’t forget. Super happy to be playing here in Cape Town for the first time in my life. I can’t thank the people here in Cape Town who came to the stadium and created an unforgettable atmosphere and made this day even more special. Super happy to see Roger’s emotions out there. I know how important it is for him playing here,” said Nadal.
After the match, Federer was still coming to terms with the emotional occasion, which exceeded his expectations.
“I was very emotional when I walked out for the doubles and when I had to take the mic right away there, that was hard. I did not know what to say because I really felt overwhelmed with emotions there. After that, I was able to play a bit of tennis and when I came back for the singles, I was more in a place of pure happiness.”
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