Match in Africa: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal team up to create history by shattering attendance records
Things can hardly be expected to traverse the ordinary track especially when a certain Roger Federer and additionally, a certain Rafael Nadal is involved. The Match in Africa is an exhibition event organised by the Roger Federer Foundation, in a bid to promote and provide education for the children of Africa. This was 6th edition of the exhibition series but the very first one that was held in the African continent, and unsurprisingly enough, saw the record highest footfall at a tennis match with as many as 51,954 people rushing to the stadium to witness the great spectacle of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in action.
With 39 shared Grand Slams between the two 30-something year olds, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal remain as legends of the sport, creating history and leaving an indelible mark wherever they go. The Match for Africa was special for so many reasons and the primary among them was the noble cause that acted as the key driving force. However, it wasn't just a Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal showdown but the Match for Africa also witnessed one of the most entertaining double spar-offs with Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates teaming up with Federer while Trevor Noah of the popular, emmy winning news/talk/satire program The Daily Show, joined forces with the Spaniard.
Easily attracting the highest crowd ever seen in a tennis exhibition match, the sixth edition of the Match in Africa went down the pages of history after a spectacular evening of entertaining tennis, which kept the 51,954-strong crowd glued to the clay red-painted hard court where it all unfolded. Playing in the football stadium that was built to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in Cape Town, the proceedings of the evening panned out with much pomp. With a slew of performances lined up, all of which made it look akin to a grand opening ceremony of a gala tournament. The newly-constructed tennis court looked bright and colourful with the dancers, singers, and the acrobats putting up the perfect show.
The main highlights of the day were two-fold. The doubles clash between Roger Federer/Bill Gates and Rafael Nadal/Trevor Noah started the evening off on a exciting note. Playing in front of so many fans, the two tennis novices cut out a delightful supporting picture, as it was mostly Roger and Rafa engaging in fun cross-court rallies. However, it was once again Federer and Gates who eased their way ahead in the one-set doubles exhibition match, which had really flexible rules. The fun match came to a conclusion with Federer and Gates winning the encounter 6-3.
The second and most important highlight of the evening was the Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal singles showdown. The demand for this match was incredible with as many as 200,000 ticket requests coming in. Raising a record $3.5-million for the Roger Federer Foundation, in one evening alone, Rafael Nadal clashed off with the Swiss great and reignited the great rivalry between them. With uproarious claps and cheers, the crowd thoroughly cheered on every point.
Most importantly, both players looked to be in fine form after the Australian Open. Federer who had shown signs of injury during his quarter-final and semi-final matches against Tennys Sandgren and Novak Djokovic, respectively, looked fit and was moving well as he hit a variety of jaw-dropping shots. Having spent his childhood holidays in South Africa owing to his mother, Lynette's, South African descent, Federer has always been passionate for the cause and reached out with the Roger Federer Foundation. Nadal, on the other hand, was visiting South Africa after a long time and was perfectly enthralled by the throbbing atmosphere. It was eventually Federer who got the better of his arch-rival in three immensely fun sets, 6-4 3-6 6-3.
Right after the match, an overwhelmed Rafa Nadal voiced his happiness for being able to do this. The 12-time French Open champion said, “It’s an unforgettable evening. We will probably never play again in an atmosphere such as this one. I can’t thank enough the people here in Cape Town. They came here and created an unforgettable atmosphere."
Meanwhile, Roger Federer was equally jubilant to see the record-breaking footfall and gushed after the match, “To have 51,954 people in attendance at a tennis match, I never thought I’d be apart of something like that...” he said before continuing, “It’s not something you dream about."
But then again, history is quick to follow and records are easy to shatter when you have Federer and Nadal in a match and Cape Town simply proved that once again.
Published 08 Feb 2020, 18:27 IST