‘I thought Federer was a mannequin’

Impressed by their perseverance, Roger Federer paid rooftop sensations Carola and Vittoria a surprise visit in their hometown in Liguria

Federer with Carola and Vittoria on the Ligurian rooftops

A few days ago, Roger Federer surprised Italian schoolgirls and internet sensations Vittoria (13) and Carola (11) by playing rooftop tennis with them.

The two youngsters had risen to fame when they put a video of playing tennis on rooftops in Finale Ligure, Italy, in April this year. The original video was an instant hit on social media, earning nearly seven million views on Twitter, 1.3 million views on Facebook and almost 450,000 views on Instagram within a day of publishing.

As part of a promotional campaign for Barilla, Federer paid a surprise visit to the girls and rallied with Carola and Vittoria across the same rooftops.

“This was the first time in a long, long time that I played tennis again,” the 38-year-old Federer said in the behind-the-scenes video released on Instagram on Tuesday evening.

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“This is why we lost a lot of balls going down on the trucks.

“They could not believe I was making so many mistakes. That was the beauty of it today that actually I wasn’t better than them today. They were better than me.”

He joked that Carola and Vittoria, “had the home-court advantage here. Not me.”

For their part, the Italian youngsters seemed suitably surprised and excited at Federer’s visit.

“I turned around and saw him and it was very weird. I didn’t think it was real,” Vittoria said. “I thought he was a mannequin.”

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Carola added: “Seeing him on TV is different than seeing him in person. He is really fun, nice, and very kind.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was impressed by the girls’ perseverance during the lockdown.

“When I saw the video on social media from the girls, I thought what a wonderful idea,” he said.

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“The passion does not go away just because of a lockdown. The video resonated with a lot of people and with me too.

“The encounter with the girls was very nice for me. It was an extraordinary place to play on the rooftop with them. Of course I had seen it on social media but then to be here in person at this location where they played was great.”

Federer, who is recovering from two knee surgeries this year, will be skipping the rest of the season but is expected to hit practice courts this month.

In another surprise for the girls, the Swiss has arranged to send them for a summer camp at the Rafa Nadal Academy.