South Africa is bracing for Roger Federer's and Rafael Nadal's exhibition match in Cape Town on Friday, February 7, in what is easily anticipated to be the largest audience to watch a tennis match, The Match for Africa 6, Cape Town.
The draw of both sport icons was so huge that tennis journalist tweeted that friends couldn't get a car from the airport.
Federer and Nadal will play in front of a sold out crowd at the Cape Town Stadium, with more than 50,000 fans expected, surpassing the Swiss legend's previous tennis-watching record set with Alexander Zverev just last fall in Mexico City.
Friend: "You cannot believe how Cape Town is being overtaken by tennis. You can't even get a car at the airport.
What tournament is it, anyway?" — Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) February 5, 2020
With 39 grand slams between them, the once fierce rivals (affectionately referred to as Fedal) have developed a great friendship that transcends their love of the sport they have each given so much to, built on infectious mutual respect.
The charity event will benefit the Roger Federer Foundation, estimated to bring in over $1 million to support early childhood education, to be distributed to six African countries and Switzerland.
“For me at one point when I realised something very special could happen, for me it was only Rafa who could make this event truly special for the people here," said Federer "I have the connection to Rafa if somebody could maybe bring him down to South Africa it is me.Testament to the enormous goodwill the two legends have brought to the sport, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also offered 10,000 tickets for the affordable price of $11 each.
I asked him and he said yes right away. “We have been fighting over a date for the last two years so I finally got one out of him. He wanted to do it earlier. We were both ready, but there was just too much going on with our schedules.
“I couldn’t be more excited to see Rafa arriving tomorrow morning”.
Accessability is extremely important to both tennis titans, who have brought in the most fans tennis has ever seen, in addition to their many philanthropic efforts and Nadal's ever-expanding academy.
"Maybe spread the word, the gospel, a little bit," Federer said, according to Tennis.com.
@RafaelNadal plays for the first time on the courts of the new #RafaNadalAcademy Kuwait!
👋🏼 @PHMofficiel 👋🏼 pic.twitter.com/peWx3jYiwr — Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar (@rnadalacademy) February 4, 2020
"Go to places I don't usually get a chance to play and maybe also bring tennis where it's not maybe seen as much." Surprisingly, the 20-time slam champion has never played in South Africa, his mother's home country.
"I don't know what took me so long, to be quite honest," the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “I said, 'It's not possible that I'm on the tour for 20 years, I've become the player that I have been, and I've never played in South Africa.
It's just not OK.' I couldn't live with myself if that happened”. “Also, that Rafa is willing to do it is exciting, of course, to say the least. I know my parents are very happy, very proud, as well.
I'm sure it's going to be very, very special for me on many levels to play there”. Federer has touched down in South Africa a few days earlier, participating in his foundation's efforts with school initiatives in Namibia, among others.
Since Federer arrived early, he's also had fun while the match got set up at the stadium, including tweeting out this hilarious bit about the orange court (beware, looks can be deceiving).
Many thanks to President Geingob and our Namibian partners for hosting me.
It was such an inspirational visit. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a vibrant movement to enhance school readiness in the country.
Because children are tomorrow’s future.
"Roger and I have shared so many magical moments on and off the court. Travelling with him to Cape Town and playing for the benefit of children is something I am very excited about,” Nadal said on the ATP web site.
“It will be my first time in the region with Roger as a tour guide – that will be fun." The Match for Africa 6, Cape Town, will air on the ESPN channels as well as ATP Tennis TV. With the inevatability of both Federer and Nadal retiring at some point in the future, any time the two legends play each other is a great gift to tennis.