Bok fan Roger Federer nearly missed World Cup final over haircut
Tennis superstar Roger Federer says he almost missed South Africa’s Rugby World Cup triumph because he was having a haircut.
Fortunately, he was just in time to watch the awards ceremony from the pavement on his way home.
The 38-year-old Swiss star, who has won a record 20 grand slam titles, was speaking upon his arrival at Cape Town International Airport ahead of a charity match in the city on Friday.
Federer won over many South Africans when he pledged his support to the Springboks during their World Cup campaign. He sent a video message to captain Siya Kolisi, which was widely shared around the world.
Asked if the World Cup win meant a lot to the Federer household – his mother is South African-born – he confessed he had nearly missed the whole thing.
“I went to the hairdresser while the match was on ... I should have known better,” Federer said, drawing laughs from about 100 journalists. “I watched the trophy ceremony from the sidewalk. I was getting emotional and all that stuff.”
Federer said he hoped to finally meet Kolisi in person, but doubted he would have time to watch the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. He said the Springboks' triumph had been "a big deal".
On Friday, Federer will face off with long-time rival Rafael Nadal, himself a 19-time grand slam champion, and play a doubles match involving billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and comedian Trevor Noah.
The event aims to set a new attendance record for a live tennis match - 50,000 - and to raise $1m (about R14.7m) for Federer's charity foundation.
Federer said he was unsure of Noah’s tennis skills and had only watched a few videos. “He doesn’t have to worry because we'll make sure he looks good,” he added.
Federer also revealed that he would meet some of his South African extended family on Saturday after the match.
He said he felt emotional to be playing in South Africa, having visited the county numerous times as a youngster.
“I enjoyed my vacations here when I was a little boy. I remember them like they were yesterday,” he said, adding that his packed tennis schedule had prevented him from visiting more often.
Federer’s parents lived in Johannesburg before moving to Switzerland before Roger was born. His mother Lynette previously told the Sunday Times that her son had inherited her love of milk tart.
Asked about his SA heritage, Federer said he had learnt some Afrikaans and enjoyed listening to his mother speaking it on the phone.
He said he had learnt to appreciate the “speed of life” in Africa from his parents and had inherited a love of the land.
Federer was quick to praise his long-time rival and friend Nadal, who has teamed up with Federer in other charity matches. He said he considered the Spaniard the perfect fit for his first match in Africa.
"I think it will be quite emotional, to be honest, because I’ve wanted to play in South Africa for many years. I’m fortunate to have it happen while I’m still active on the tour.
“I realised that it was only Rafa [Nadal] who could make it truly special. I asked him and he said yes right away.”