Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal leave lasting legacy with Match in Africa success

Federer jokes with Trevor Noah about Nadal (1:07)

Roger Federer has a little fun with Trevor Noah and shares that Rafael Nadal might be better than him at trick shots. (1:07)

"Sometimes you have to set the bar really high, and if you fail it is okay as long you gave it all you had." - Roger Federer on the importance of sport for children's development.

CAPE TOWN -- The bar for The Match in Africa Cape Town on Friday was set high from the offset, as organizers wanted to raise at least $1 million for the Roger Federer Foundation through ticket sales and sponsors.

There was also a secondary goal: setting a new attendance record for a tennis match, with 50,000 the target. Both those objectives were surpassed and then some, with the most important, the charity cash, hitting the $3.5 million mark.

"The idea was also to have this match here in Cape Town and not to make the tickets crazy expensive like tennis tours and tournaments sometimes have the tendency to do," Federer , whose mother is South African, said on the day.

"I also felt that it needed to be something that moves the masses and gets the people into the stadium, people who can't usually afford to go tennis can actually come.

"Maybe to some extent you can't raise as much as you wanted, but to some extent I don't think we would have sold out the stadium. I think it's a win-win for everybody."

And boy did the masses, diverse in all aspects, turn up. A new world record for the biggest audience for a tennis match was set at 51,954.

It was not quite an "I watched Rumble in the Jungle" moment. It was an exhibition match after all. But those who attended on that cool summer night can proclaim "I was there the night Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played on African soil."

That's a really nice feather in anyone's cap, but the bigger picture was about much more than that.

Federer and Nadal's day started 10am local time as they took part in media events, some a surprise to the media themselves, with children from disadvantaged schools primarily, and it only ended at 23:30 when they walked out of the media centre.

The Learning through Play session that both Federer and Nadal attended was the perfect appetizer, give the Foundation's objective to raise money for early childhood development in rural areas.

Pre-school children from around Cape Town were brought together by the Zip Zap circus school and Federer and Nadal did five activities, which assessed the status of child development, with the youngsters.

Truth be told, the kids didn't seem to know who the two sporting greats were, but the Simon Says activity and the reading session with their "tutors" went down a treat.

One day when they are a little older, they will realize the magnitude of February 7, 2020, when Roger Federer, in full dad mode, sang If You're Happy and You Know It and stamped his feet at the base of Table Mountain.

Those who attended the festivities at Cape Town Stadium will without a doubt say the Fedal match was the main course, despite the result (Federer won, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, incidentally) being irrelevant. The match itself was light-hearted, as you'd expect from an exhibition event, but also had its fair share of quality shots.

South African comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and philanthropist Bill Gates played in the doubles (Mr Gates being by far the superior player), while local acts the Ndlovu Youth Choir, of America's Got Talent fame, added some African flavor, and the Zip Zap Circus brought the acrobatics.

But it was the main purpose of the event, the charity aspect, that truly won the day. A charity that started 16 years ago, and has already benefitted 1.5 million children in Africa and Switzerland by providing them with better quality education, can now help even more vulnerable kids.

The 51,954 people who turned up, and the sponsors who plastered their names around the place, came to the party big time, and the children in South Africa will be the big beneficiaries as all the net proceeds will go to the Roger Federer Foundation to support education in the rural areas in the country.

As Nadal said after the match, "It was one of those days that you just don't forget," and those who attended certainly won't.

The events of the past few days clearly caught up with Federer by the time the final presser arrived, and he was visibly emotional by the time he had to say his parting words, close to midnight.

"So many emotions, so many incredible feelings for me. We have it here, 51,954 people at a tennis match," he said.

"I never thought I was going to be part of something like that, to be honest. It's not something you dream about, these things just happen and we are grateful to be part of it."