South Africa

LIVE | Siya Kolisi tosses coin, Federer wears Bok jersey before Nadal match

LIVE | Siya Kolisi tosses coin, Federer wears Bok jersey before Nadal match

Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi received the loudest cheer of the night when he emerged to toss the coin before the Match in Africa between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at Cape Town Stadium on Friday.

The 50,000-strong world record tennis crowd rose to its feet as Kolisi, wearing a leg brace after suffering a knee injury playing for the Stormers last weekend, emerged from the tunnel.

Kolisi was given the Swiss 20-franc coin bearing Federer's image after tossing it, and Federer donned a Springbok jersey during his warm-up.

When play started, Federer broke Nadal's serve after the first game went to deuce, then held his serve to take a 2-0 lead.

Earlier, a monstrous 52-shot fifth point that included a grunt fest involving the world No 2 and No 3 players was the highlight of the doubles match between Federer and Bill Gates and Nadal and comedian Trevor Noah.

But it was two double faults by Noah in the eight game that handed Federer and Gates - dubbed Gateserer on social media - the first break of serve, taking the score to 5-3. 

Within seconds it was 6-3, condemning the wisecracking Noah and Nadal to defeat.

Noah blamed the wind when he hit a service return long at deuce in the third game, but the sudden-death system being used for the match meant Federer and Gates went 2-1 up.

Then the host of The Daily Show in the US came back from a double fault to hold his serve and take the score to 2-2.

Along the way he poked fun at Nadal's baseline routine as he prepares to serve, to the amusement of the crowd and his fellow players. "Ah no. Now we start," muttered Nadal.

The song African Dream launched the world record-breaking event. The Ndlovu Youth Choir, who won global acclaim with their appearances on America's Got Talent last year, performed the song as children from Cape Town's Zip Zap Circus swung on trapezes.

A worldwide TV audience and a 50,000-strong record crowd for a tennis match were looking forward to the highlight of the evening, a singles match between Federer and Nadal.

"I'm feeling incredibly excited," Federer told MC Rob Koenig before the doubles match, and Gates said he was a "little bit" nervous but thrilled to play in his third Match for Africa.

Federer said the welcome he had received since arriving in Cape Town on Wednesday had been "worth the wait" after a lengthy absence from the country of his mother's birth.

Nadal and Noah emerged to huge cheers from the crowd, and the comedian said he was "in Federer's head". Nadal said it was simple to beat Federer as long as you were aggressive and played incredibly well.

Then MC Carol Tshabalala welcomed Johannesburg-born Lynette Federer, the star's 67-year-old mother, to the court. She tossed the coin before launching into an interview with Koenig in fluent Afrikaans.

"We love the people, we love the country, we just love you all," she said. 

Sporting celebrities in the crowd included Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit, former Boks Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana and swimmer Ryk Neethling. Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane and businessman Patrice Motsepe were also there.

The stadium gates opened at 4.30pm, shortly after the world No 3 (Federer) and Nadal finished a practice session on the orange hard-court built over the pitch.

Traffic began to build up in the city centre soon after the first roads around the stadium were closed at noon.

Federer started his day in the Bo-Kaap before a photo session with Nadal and the players' families on the Grand Parade in central Cape Town.

Then the two stars spent time with children from Hangberg Pre-Primary School in Hout Bay at a “learning through play” session at Green Point Athletics Stadium.

The Match in Africa benefits Federer's foundation, which in the last 16 years has spent almost R800m on education projects in SA, five other Southern African countries and Switzerland.