Roger Federer says Rafael Nadal is the perfect fit for an opponent in Friday’s Match in Africa contest at Cape Town Stadium.
The two tennis legends will square off in the exhibition match for Federer’s foundation, with the main aim to raise money 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 Swiss ace said he never had any doubts about who he wanted to face in South Africa, his mother’s country of birth.
“For me, it was only Rafa who could make this event truly special for the people here, because I have the connection to Rafa. I thought if maybe somebody could bring him down to South Africa then it’s me.
“I asked him and he said yes right away. We’ve been fighting over a date for the last two years. I finally got one out of him. I couldn’t be more excited to see Rafa arriving tomorrow morning,” Federer said.
The two tennis giants 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.”
Federer added that his relationship with Nadal had grown stronger over the years. “I remember Rafa when he was younger, he was so shy – he was looking up to me – and he said whatever Roger wants I’m happy with that. Then he grew into a much stronger character. And then obviously the rivalry grew as we were No 1 and 2 the whole time. And then today with all the time that has past we’re on the final stretch in some ways. We see live very differently but we have ultimate respect for one another.
“We’ve done so many promotions together. We’ve done charitable things like the bushfire relief just now also in Australia, I’ve played him in Mallorca on the half clay, half grass court, I’ve played him in Madrid for his foundation, he came to Zurich to play in my match for Africa as well. It’s just nice to really get together.”
Federer is the current Grand Slam leader with 20 titles, but Nadal is hot on his heels on 19.
The Swiss boasts 103 ATP titles, with Nadal not too far behind on 84.
“Regardless of all the records that he’s about to break of mine, or vice versa, I think we’re happy for one another. So, for me, I’m very happy and very excited that he’s here in Cape Town playing in a completely different surrounding that we’ve ever been in. It’s going to be wonderful.”