Dream of meeting Rafael Nadal may come true for 95-year-old South African grandmother

Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will play Roger Federer in a sold-out exhibition match to raise funds for charities across Africa. The Match in Africa will be the 6th edition of the event but will be the first to be played in Africa.

Mama Lila, as she is fondly called, said her dream was made possible by the Roger Federer Foundation, when her son in-law Riedewhan Davids wrote a letter telling them of her wish. Davids said the family tried to buy tickets online but wasn’t quick enough. The 50000 tickets were sold out within 15 minutes.

Lilian Witbooi, an avid tennis player in her younger days, was left devastated despite her family’s fierce efforts to obtain tickets.

“In spite of being online before 9am, the opening time of the sales, and two of us on the phone trying to get through to Computicket, all was in vain as the tickets were sold out in 15 minutes. She was devastated, heartbroken and disappointed,” he explained in the letter.

Davids wrote to the foundation on behalf of Witbooi, requesting that they consider her should a wheelchair ticket be made available. Two days after sending the letter, Computicket contacted him to say that a wheelchair ticket was available for her and her assistant.

“Her reaction was indescribable. She was ecstatic. The best thing that happened in all her life, those were her words. She cried when she received the news. The family was so thankful after the initial disappointment.”

Mama Lila said: “I’m very excited. I keep packing and unpacking. I keep wishing I could meet Nadal. I just wish he wins and I wish I could take a photo with him.”

“The first time I saw him play was about 12 years ago. He doesn’t just hit the ball, he plays tennis.”

Source: www.iol.co.za


  1. Hahaaa! Orange hardcourt? Trickery or what? 😀😀😀😀

    I watched some of the doubles match on You Tube and it looked like a lot of fun and a very entertaining exhibition for the crowd. It was also really nice to see Rafa and Roger sitting down and interacting with the kindergarten kids, reading them a story and laughing with them at the same time. It was obvious that they feel so much at ease in each other’s company. WELL DONE GUYS. WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE OUTCOME OF A TENNIS MATCH. BOTH OF YOU AND THE KIDS ARE WINNERS!

  2. Even though the court was orange to look like clay, Roger and Bill won 6-3. Roger hoped the court’s color would make Rafa feel at home.

    “Rafa told me today that when I won my FO in 2009 he was so happy for me.” @rogerfederer

  3. What a lovely story! I’m so pleased that Mama Lila got tickets. I really hope she gets to meet Rafa as that would be fantastic!

  4. New post on The Grandstand

    Federer, Nadal ready to go for Match in Africa 6
    by Ricky

    The Match in Africa 6, benefitting the Roger Federer Foundation, will take place on Friday in Cape Town, South Africa.

    It is the sixth installment of this event but the first actually in Africa (hence the renamed Match in Africa instead of Match for Africa), and also the second featuring Federer’s most famous rival: Rafael Nadal. After the 2010 debut between Federer and Nadal, the Swiss’ ensuing opponents were Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, John Isner, and Jack Sock. Locations have ranged from Zurich (three times) to Seattle to San Jose.

    Match No. 6 has the star power (Federer, Nadal, Bill Gates, and Trevor Noah) and an unprecedented setting. Not only is it in Africa, but the attendance record for a single tennis match is expected to be broken with more than 50,000 fans.

    “This Match in Africa is a dream come true,” Federer assured. “I will play in my mother’s home country against my toughest rival and friend Rafa Nadal. We share not only the love for tennis but also for the good cause of giving children a better start in education and in life. I feel privileged to have other leading philanthropists on board to entertain millions of people in the stadium and on TV. It will be a once-in-a lifetime moment for [me and my family].

    “As the idea grew and it ended up let’s try to go big and we went bigger and bigger. For me at one point when I realized something very special could happen, for me it was only Rafa who could make this event truly special for the people here. I have the connection to Rafa if somebody could maybe bring him down to South Africa it is me. I asked him and he said yes right away.”

    “Roger and I have shared so many magical moments on and off the court,” Nadal commented. “Traveling with him to Cape Town and playing for the benefit of children is something I am very excited about. It will be my first time in the region with Roger as a tour guide…that will be fun.”

    As always, all proceeds will go to Federer’s foundation–which has raised $52 million over the years to educate more than 1.5 million children in six different African countries as well as Switzerland.

    Ricky | February 6, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    • Thanks Margo. Such wonderful camaraderie between Rafa and Roger – two tennis greats getting together for a very worthy cause. Record breaking ticket sales- no surprise!

      • You’re welcome Lorna. I read a while back that tickets were sold out shortly after going on sale.

        Kudos to Roger for having a certain number of tickets sold at $11 so that locals could also attend. A great benefit for those who couldn’t afford to pay the market rate. Imagine if one of them were to become the next Rafa or Roger.

  5. How lovely for Mama Lila!! So happy for her. It’s my dream too to see and maybe meet Rafa someday when he’s playing a match. I’m not yet 95 so maybe there’s still hope!

  6. VAMOS SWEETHEART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) WI……WI……WI…….AND CI…….CI……..CI……..THE TENNIS FAN LADY IS RIGHT……YOU DON’T JUST HIT THE BALL…….YOU PLAY TENNIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) BEAUTIFUL WORDS HONORING YOUR GENIUS CLASSY GOAT OF ALL GOATS TENNIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) VAMOS SWEETHEART AND ENJOY EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN ON YOUR PRECIOUS RAFA NADAL TENNIS ACADEMY IN KUWAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) KUDOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) IT IS ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) VERY IMPRESSIVE…. MASSIVE….BEAUTIFUL…… GO RAFA GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) THE LAY OUT OF COURTS BOTH INDOOR AND OUT DOOR IS SO MAGNIFICENT AND GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) BEST WISHES ON EVERYTHING AND HAVE LOTS OF FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : ) KEEP SMILING! : ) XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

  7. OMG Rafa in Kuwait, wearing skin-tight jeans, was caught on camera as he slapped himself on his butt. Looked as if he could hardly walk but all the comments were about his famous butt. Hilarious comments. I guess fans come in all types of persuasion.

  8. Sweet of Roger’s foundation to do that. Hoping Rafa has a fabulous time as he said he has never been to Africa.

    • I could be wrong, but didn’t he go to South Africa for a world cup football final in 2010. Anyway I hope he has an enjoyable time and that Mama Lila gets to see and meet him.

      • Kathleen, you are correct but Rafa did say “I’ve never been in the region before.” I thought he meant South Africa.

      • Rafa did go to the World Cup in 2010 and to Sun City for a junior tournament when he was about 12. I think he said he’d never been to Capetown.

  9. So happy for you Mama Lila. It is also my dream to watch Rafa play in South Africa.
    I hope and trust that I can fulfil this dream by watching him play on his favourite clay court in Spain. VAMOS RAFA!

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