It’s been slim pickings for tennis lovers in southern Africa as far as Grand Slam trophies are concerned. One could perhaps say that the continent as a whole has somewhat underachieved in the world of tennis but this is primarily down to the love of football, with the beautiful game taking center stage in Africa.
But for those towards the south of the continent, the interest and love for tennis is a lot more prominent which is why the lack of silverware has been particularly disappointing. One could point to triumphs in 1981 when South African Johan Kriek won the Australian Open, but Kriek would take on American citizenship the following year which always leaves a somewhat sour taste in the mouth. The same goes for Jaroslav Drobny who won three Grand Slams under the Egyptian flag in the 1950s, only to retire as a British citizen.
Indeed, there have been very few who have proudly flown the flag for Africa which is why the continent has adopted Roger Federer. Indeed, southern Africa considers Roger Federer as one of their own and will be hoping the Swiss legend can enjoy one last hurrah at Wimbledon this year. Anyone betting on tennis will see that Federer is at 8.50 to triumph at the All England Club, which does go some way in demonstrating that the end could be nigh for tennis’s greatest ever champion.
This approaching reality is a tough pill to swallow for those who regard Federer as African.
"My mum is from South Africa, I feel very connected to the country…Nelson Mandela's been incredibly influential and inspiring on so many levels."
— Laureus (@LaureusSport) May 26, 2020
This unique connection is there because Federer’s mother, Lynette, is South African. This has meant that the Swiss star has spent a lot of his time in the rainbow nation in an effort to bring regular ATP Tour matches to the country. It was just last year that an exhibition match between Nadal and Federer took place in Cape Town in a bid to do just that during a spectacle called the Match in Africa. Of course, Federer wasn’t going to lose on ‘home soil’ and managed to beat the Spaniard in this one-off match.
But apart from trying to improve the profile of tennis in South Africa, Federer has won the hearts and minds of all southern Africa by investing millions of dollars in infrastructure in Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Indeed, the man who has won 20 Grand Slams has taken southern Africa on the journey with him by sharing his success with the people.
🏆20. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WqUiSo3fd5
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) January 28, 2018
This is why Federer is so revered and respected on the continent and also why he has an enormous amount of fans in Africa. The 39-year-old has been the people’s champion and helped inspire millions through his work on and off the court.
Federer will be sorely missed when he eventually announces his retirement but the people of southern African can rest assured that he will carry on having a presence within the region. Indeed, this is a part of the world that is close to Federer’s heart and he’ll continue his mission of trying to produce a Grand Slam champion from southern Africa.