Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal play to record crowd in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN: Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal attracted what the organizers said it was a world record crowd for a tennis match when they played an exhibition event in the Cape Town Stadium .
The organizers said an audited assistance of 51,954 beat the 42,517 who watched Federer play. Alexander Zverev from Germany in Mexico City last November.
They also announced that the 'Match in Africa' raised USD 3.5-million for the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports educational & athletic programmes for children in Africa.
"To have 51,954 people in attendance at a tennis match, I never thought I'd be apart of something like that," said Federer.
It is not something you dream about.
Federer, who was accompanied by his South African mother, Lynette, said his first appearance in South Africa was a special occasion.
"The first time here in Cape Town, in South Africa, means so much more than just tennis ," he said.
Federer won 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a match in which the players had to contend with cool, windy conditions in the stadium that was built for the 2010 football World Cup. The arena was packed with eager fans who sang, clapped & did the wave throughout the match.
It's an incredible crowd, an incredible stadium, said Nadal, who was making his first appearance in South Africa since playing in the country as a junior.
It is an unforgettable night. We will probably never play again in an atmosphere like this, Nadal said.
"I can't thank enough the people here in Cape Town. They came here & created an unforgettable atmosphere."
Earlier in the day, Federer & his doubles partner billionaire Bill Gates beat Nadal & South-African born comedian Trevor Noah in a match with more flexible rules.
The ceremonial coin toss was made by rugby captain Springbok, World Cup winner, Siya Kolisi, who gave Federer a Springbok shirt. The coin used was a commemorative piece of 20 Swiss francs minted with the face of Federer. He gave it to Kolisi.
Other high-profile South African sports stars in attendance included former Springbok captains John Smit & Jean de Villiers as well as Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling.
The match is the sixth edition of the event organised by the Roger Federer Foundation & is the first to take place in Africa.
There is so much anticipation that the game is almost forgotten, Federer said before the game.
He said he spent childhood vacations in South Africa.
The time I spent here as a child was incredible, Federer said.
"You would go on the road & you never come back for some reason because you've gotta chase that little tennis ball & you've gotta chase your dreams."
Tens of thousands of fans showed up early & were ecstatic when Nadal & Federer hit practice balls into the stands.
A fan said he brought a wedding ring for Federer to propose. I want to marry Roger, he shouted.
Earlier in the afternoon, Federer & Nadal played tennis with children from townships in Hout Bay.
The children are part of an afterschool activity program with Zip Zap Circus which develops gross & fine motor skills.