CAPE TOWN, South Africa
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal attracted what organisers said was a world
record crowd for a tennis match when they played an exhibition event in the
Cape Town Stadium on Friday.

The organisers said an audited attendance of 51,954 beat the
42,517 who watched Federer play Alexander Zverev of Germany in Mexico City last

They also announced that the ‘Match in Africa’ raised
$3.5-million for the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports educational and
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’s 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 and
did the wave throughout the match.

“It’s an amazing crowd, an amazing stadium,” said
Nadal, who was making his first appearance in South Africa since playing in the
country as a junior.

“It’s an unforgettable evening. We will probably never
play again in an atmosphere such as this one,” said Nadal. “I can’t
thank enough the people here in Cape Town. They came here and created an
unforgettable atmosphere.”

Earlier in the day, Federer and his doubles partner
billionaire Bill Gates beat Nadal and South-African born comedian  Trevor
Noah in a match  with more flexible rules.

The ceremonial coin toss was performed by World Cup-winning
Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi, who presented Federer with a Springbok
jersey. The coin used was a commemorative 20 Swiss Francs piece minted
with Federer’s face. He gave it to Kolisi.

Other high-profile South African sports stars in attendance
included former Springbok captains John Smit and 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 and is the first to take place in Africa.

“There’s so much anticipation that goes into it that
the match itself almost gets forgotten,” said Federer before the match.

He said he spent childhood holidays in South Africa.

“The time spent here as a kid was amazing,”
Federer said. “You would go on the road and you never come back for some
reason because you’ve gotta chase that little tennis ball and you’ve gotta
chase your dreams.”

Tens of thousands of fans showed up early and were ecstatic
when Nadal and Federer hit practice balls into the stands.

One fan said she brought a wedding ring for Federer to
propose to her. “I want to marry Roger,” she shouted.

Earlier in the afternoon, Federer and 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 and fine motor skills.


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