Roger Federer’s impact on both tennis and the African continent has been hailed after the Swiss announced his impending retirement.
The 41-year-old has a South African mother, Lynette, and the 20-time Grand Slam champion has a charitable foundation which focuses on projects across the continent.
Federer helped break the world record for attendance at a tennis match in February 2020, when just under 52,000 people saw him take on Rafael Nadal in the Match for Africa in Cape Town.
“We’re very proud that he’s played such a big role in the uplift of tennis and the communities in our continent,” South African tennis promoter Bruce Davidson told BBC Sport Africa.
“Roger is passionate about Africa. He’s not only been involved in South Africa, but has also gone into places like Malawi.”
The Roger Federer Foundation, formed in 2003, conducts programmes in six countries in southern Africa – Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe – and has previously funded projects in Ethiopia.
The Match for Africa in Cape Town raised around $3.5m, which helped support education for children in rural South Africa.
“Lynette was from the east of Johannesburg, a town called Kempton Park. Even though she married someone from Europe, we tend to think Roger Federer is very much ours,” Davidson added.
“The big match against Rafael Nadal a couple of years back raised huge amounts of money for not only the South African foundation, but the rest of Africa. He invested a lot of his foundation into South African projects, especially in the Eastern Cape.
“At 41, the Swiss maestro will definitely retire as one of the all-time greats in sport. He will go down as one of the most liked and most respected tennis players of all time.”
In 2020, Federer himself told the BBC World Service’s Sportshour that he was “very proud” of his South African roots.
Federer ‘an inspiration’ to South Africa’s Harris
Meanwhile, tennis coach Anthony Harris says Federer has always been helpful to him and the player he coaches, South African Lloyd Harris.
The 25-year-old reached a career-high of 31 in the world last year but injuries have since seen him drop out of the top 100.
“The fact that Roger is half South African makes us feel we do have a connection with him,” Anthony Harris, who is no relation to Lloyd, told BBC Sport Africa.
“He’s been so amazing to myself and Lloyd. We’ve always just felt like he’s just so, so friendly towards us.
“The fact that we are South African and his mum’s South African, he likes the fact that he has a South African connection. He is always interested in South Africa and asking us about South Africa.”
Harris added that Federer is a role model for players across the continent, and will continue to inspire them even when he hangs up his racquet.
“Lloyd has always looked at Federer as a role model from a tennis perspective and from a mentality perspective,” he said.
“The way Roger Federer has always carried himself, I think he has been a huge inspiration.
“Especially off court, how he’s handled himself, his business affairs, his public image, and the way he handles himself with other tennis players. He’s really well liked and is very consistent in his behaviour with everybody.
“Watching somebody like Roger Federer, he plays a little bit different to everybody else – almost like beautiful tennis. He’s somebody who’s so physically incredible, mentally so stable and so consistent.
“Then to see how well liked he is like off the court and to see how successful he is and the way he manages his off-court presence, I think this is has been hugely inspirational.”