Roger Federer wasn’t going to lose this one to Rafael Nadal as he beat the Spaniard in an exhibition match that raised $3.5 million.
Not on what felt like a homecoming for Federer, who beat his great rival 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a three-set exhibition match at a soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, on Friday, February 7, 2020.
It was Federer’s first match in his mother’s country of birth, and the country the Swiss great rates as his second home.
The match was created to raise money for the Roger Federer Foundation, which provides education and athletic training to children in Africa. Both players also squared off in a doubles match earlier in the day, with Federer and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates beating Nadal and comedian Trevor Noah 6-3.
There was a notable moment for the home crowd before the start of play when Rugby World Cup winner Siya Kolisi presented Federer with a Springboks jersey.
A firm backhand gave Federer early control, but Nadal’s service game was strong and so was his forehand. However, the Spaniard’s serve was broken when he put a backhand wide and allowed Federer to take the first game.
It was 2-1 Federer when the Swiss stretched his advantage further by holding brilliantly on serve after racing into a 40-0 start. The players then traded holds, putting Federer closer to eventually seizing the set at 4-2.
Nadal’s deft and precise lob at the net helped Nadal close it to 4-3. It was a well-controlled shot amid strong and difficult winds.
Having fun in South Africa 😊 @RafaelNadal 🙌 #MatchInAfrica https://t.co/u8TRqj1A3X
The decorated veterans turned the clock back to their vintage best and treated the fans to some brilliant rallies:
Both players enjoying a runaround! 😅 @rogerfederer @RafaelNadal #MatchInAfrica https://t.co/WGzqpaMTtP
Nadal soon returned the favour when his superb drop shot forced Federer into a stunning rescue from the baseline. Nadal got to the ball to return in style, with Federer slicing a forehand into the net.
Federer had lost the point, but he was still serving for the set at 5-4. An ace helped the 38-year-old see things out.
Nadal took control of the second set with an early break for a 2-0 lead. Federer broke back, but Nadal stayed on top en route to building a three-game advantage at 4-1 before the ballboy and ballgirl played a point:
B-E-A-U-TIFUL! 😍 @RafaelNadal #MatchInAfrica https://t.co/HQIQgLAr0R
From Basel to Cape Town… Once a ballboy, always a ballboy 😅 @rogerfederer #MatchInAfrica https://t.co/YKEgrQAPGW
The set was settled at 6-3 in Nadal’s favour.
Federer’s response was an emphatic one, wasting no time building a 3-0 lead thanks largely to a pair of quality service games. The score was 4-1 Federer when Nadal produced an exquisite trick shot, a terrific overhand volley when facing the other way, helping the 33-year-old halve the deficit.
How does he do it?! 😯 Superb skill from @RafaelNadal! 👌 #MatchInAfrica https://t.co/zT4DXqYQvU
As good as the shot was, Federer was still in a position to serve for the match-three games later. He duly won with a clever drop over the net to hold serve to cap an occasion when two of the sport’s greatest combined their talents to produce a true spectacle.