Widely tipped to last the Wimbledon fortnight, it was a shock when the South African finally caved in after a marathon struggle which the entire world watched breathlessly from the edge of their seats.
In what turned out to be his final contest, the people’s champion fought back several times after falling behind and observers would have been forgiven for writing him off long before he eventually capitulated. However, on each occasion he found himself facing defeat, Mandela got himself out of jail, rallied against all the odds and took up the fight against his opponent with a fresh vigour.
Always noted for his dogged determination, Mandela clashed with authority on many occasions and was punished unjustly with a lengthy ban which put him out of action for an important phase of his career. His return to the court came at a time when most professionals would have been eyeing the carpet slippers and fireside, but Mandela thrust himself back into the fray becoming a national and international icon in the process.
Although he lost the match, the umpire concluded by declaring “Game, set and match to Mandela” and the great man left the court to a highly emotional standing ovation.