It's a Grand Slam for charity when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play back-to-back exhibitions today and Wednesday. The tennis aces, who usually meet only in the finals of major tournaments, will face off on consecutive days in their respective home countries of Switzerland and Spain, with proceeds going to their charitable efforts in Africa.
"We know they're playing, we know what time it is, we know it's not going to rain. It'll
be a nice boost for tennis in a traditionally down time," says ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe. Although Nadal — who holds a 14-8 edge in head-to-head matches — dominated the men's game this year by winning three Grand Slams, Federer defeated the Spaniard in the ATP World Tour Finals 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 last month. It was an "emphatic win," says McEnroe. "It said to me that Roger is not done."
Playing on the indoor, hard-court surface could favor Federer, who is a "little more aggressive and has a better serve," McEnroe says, while also "negating the enormous spin that Nadal gets on the ball." But he wouldn't be surprised if each wins at home. "These guys are great friends and the respect they have for each other is huge, but they want to win," McEnroe says.
Viewers hoping for tantrums or thrown rackets are likely out of luck — competitive as these men are, this is also about having fun and raising funds. "You'll see a lot of smiles from both of them, and that will make it really enjoyable to watch," says McEnroe. "It's really more like a celebration of tennis."
Federer/Nadal Match for Africa begins Tuesday at 2/1c on ESPN2.