Blitzboks coach Neil Powell tells RugbyRocks.com’s SAVANNAH CONNACHER what it was like to attend the tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal at Cape Town Stadium.
What was the whole experience like?
It was incredible. I went with my wife Tanya and two of our friends. We had an early dinner at the Waterfront and then walked with other spectators to the stadium. Everybody was filled with excitement for one of the biggest sporting events to ever take place in Africa.
My favourite part was being able to sit on the other side of the fence at Cape Town Stadium. I’m usually one of the competitors filled with nerves and focused on the job at hand, but in this case, I could just sit back and relax. We were fortunate enough to get some amazing seats, right by the halfway line and next to the tunnel where the players walk out.
Did you enjoy the ‘celebrity match’ that saw Federer and Bill Gates play doubles against Nadal and Trevor Noah?
Yes, it was good to see fierce competitors like Federer and Nadal in a relaxed environment where they could just enjoy themselves, play a few trick shots and have a bit of fun with their competitors. Trevor Noah took over the show with his jokes and wittiness. It was a great start to a fantastic evening.
How well did Noah and Gates play in your opinion?
It seems like Bill plays a bit of tennis in his free time. He was surprisingly good, and able to return some extremely powerful shots when he was at the net. Trevor managed to get a few good serves in. They both played very well considering they played with the crème de la crème of tennis.
How was the match between Federer and Nadal?
I don’t think people watching on TV can actually see how quickly they hit that ball. The ball literally misses the net by millimetres, and it is incredible to see how much spin they can get. I don’t think they played as competitively as they usually would at Wimbledon, for instance, but their competitive side was definitely still there. That level of tennis was absolutely astounding to see in person.
Did you see any other rugby coaches or players at the stadium?
The stadium was extremely full but I saw Siya Kolisi, John Smit and Pieter-Steph du Toit on the big screen. I saw Jacques Nienaber at the Waterfront, so I assume he went to the match too, and I also saw a few of the sevens players.