ATP Tour

Federer thrilled to be back 'home' in South Africa

Roger Federer (Gallo Images)
Roger Federer (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Tennis icon Roger Federer is excited to be in South Africa where he will face Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match at Cape Town Stadium on Friday.

The Swiss ace and his long-time Spanish rival will square off in the Match in Africa, the sixth instalment of exhibition matches for Federer's foundation.

To date, the foundation has raised over $52 million in support of educational and athletics programmes for children in Africa.

Federer arrived in the Mother City on Wednesday where he addressed reporters at Cape Town International Airport.

The winner of 103 ATP titles has a strong connection to South Africa, with his mother Lynette having grown up in the country and he often visited these shores with his parents as a youngster.

But Federer, now 38 and the owner of a record 20 Grand Slam titles, has never played a tennis match in South Africa and he said it was long overdue.

"I'm very happy to be back in South Africa. And I'm excited that this match is finally around the corner. I have family here and have been wanting to come back for years," Federer said.

"This really connects all the dots - playing tennis, raising money and doing it in South Africa, which is very special to me. I'm very happy it's here. I think it's going to be quite emotional because I've been wanting to play in South Africa for years.

"It's a place where I've come to spend many vacations as a child. I still have family here in South Africa. I can't believe that it has taken so long, and I hope it will be dry (hoping it won't rain on Friday)."

Federer touched down in Cape Town after a brief visit to Namibia where he met President Hage Geingob.

"It was my first time there and it was for the foundation (Roger Federer Foundation). I went to see students and kids at a primary school. I also met with the President," Federer said.

Federer and Nadal have a storied rivalry which dates back to the Miami Open in 2004.

Nadal holds a 24-16 head-to-head advantage, but Federer has won six of the past seven encounters.

"It's nice to call one of your biggest rivals one of your friends. He's not my closest friend, I'm not his closest friend as well," Federer quipped, before adding: "On the road I think we understand each other really, really well. We like seeing each other, also chatting together and making sure that tennis moves forward the right way."

Before Friday's singles match, Federer will team up in a doubles match with Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and rand trillionaire, Bill Gates, against Nadal and South African comedian Trevor Noah.

"Bill Gates has been amazing for my foundation. We've had one in San Jose and Seattle the last few years. It's just so interesting to learn from him, to speak to him, to get to know his wife and his team behind his foundations... to be spending time with him has been important for us, we learn a lot. He’s a great guy as well, he's so bright, I feel so small besides him," Federer said.

Federer was also looking forward to sharing a court with Noah: "I'm a big fan of Trevor Noah. I think he's doing an amazing job with his show. I've only met him briefly once in New York. I felt like if maybe a fourth person could fit in this team nicely it would be Trevor with his background also - half Swiss, half South African. People will hopefully be happy to see him as well, showing that if you work hard and believe in yourself you can really make it far."

Organisers are hoping to get up to 50 000 fans into the stadium on Friday, which will break the world attendance record for a tennis match.

The current record was set in November 2019 when Federer defeated Germany's Alexander Zverev in Mexico City in front of 42 517 fans.

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