Federer tops Nadal in South Africa & 51,000 turn up to watch

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Rafael Nadal, left, jumps the net while Roger Federer watches on during their exhibition tennis match held at the Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Friday Feb. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

Roger Federer wasn't going to lose this one to Rafael Nadal.

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.

It was Federer's first match in his mother's country of birth, and the country the Swiss great rates as his second home.

Almost everything was for Federer on the night. The caps and T-shirts with RF logos all across the crowd. The “Welcome home, Roger” signs being held up. The coin for the toss, a newly minted 20 Swiss Francs with Federer's image on it. Federer recently became the first living Swiss to be engraved on one of the nation's coins.

Even South Africa's biggest sports stars were in awe. Siya Kolisi, South Africa's Rugby World Cup-winning captain, came out pre-match to present Federer with a South Africa team jersey with Federer's name on the back. He was asked who he was supporting.

“Definitely Team Roger,” Kolisi said. “Sorry, Nadal, I love you, too.”

Nadal smiled graciously on the other side of the net.

The exhibition at Cape Town Stadium was to raise money for the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa. The foundation was hoping to top $1 million from the exhibition. It raised $3.5 million.