ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal's SA connection

Rafael Nadal (AFP)
Rafael Nadal (AFP)

Cape Town - Towards the end of the 20th century, a 12-year-old kid by the name of Rafael Nadal held tennis officials and fans alike in awe with his already burgeoning talent and relentless determination at Sun City during an ITF junior international tournament.

In corresponding years, the already dynamic youngster who on Friday faces Roger Federer in the eagerly-awaited exhibition charity game between the two tennis legends at Cape Town Stadium, went on to romp through further junior tournaments at the Sun City resort and comfortably won the under-14 events on both these occasions.

South Africans, for sure, have stressed the link of the 20-times Swiss Grand Slam winner with this country because his mother was born here - this, despite it should be added, the fact that it has taken Federer 38 years to play his first competitive tennis game on these shores.

Less publicised have been Rafa "The Raging Bull" Nadal's links with South Africa over the years, despite the fact that they have not been inconsiderable.

Among numerous visits here was the one in 2010 when Nadal was an enthusiastic fan of Spain during their triumphant annexation of the Soccer World Cup.

Friends of Nadal will also tell you that the Mallorca-born Nadal has sharpened a no mean golfing ability at the Gary Player Course at Sun City.

Over the years, despite their pinnacle rivalry - Nadal has 19 Grand Slam titles to his credit and leads Federer 24-16 in head-to-head matches - the two have become good friends and it was not surprising Spain's "King of Clay" agreed to participate in what is a continuation of Federer's extensive and ongoing charity innovations to benefit the educational and other shortcomings confronting the youth in various parts of Africa.

Friday's tennis game at the cavernous Cape Town Stadium, which was initially erected as a venue for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, will not affect the head-to-head rating of the two famed protagonists as it is of an exhibition nature and does not have an official tournament status.

But organisers are hoping to set up a record as having the biggest crowd ever to watch a tennis game - something credited to 42 517 at another recent exhibition match in Mexico City in which Federer played Germany's Alexander Zverev.

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