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Viral Rooftop Tennis Players Get Surprise From Roger Federer

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Maybe you saw this video on social media - it was so cool - two girls, each on a rooftop on opposite sides of a street hitting a tennis ball back and forth. The video went viral, with more than 10 million views. Here are the young tennis players.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

VITTORIA OLIVERI: (Speaking Italian).

CAROLA PESSINA: (Speaking Italian).

MARTIN: Thirteen-year-old Vittoria Oliveri - hope I said that right - and 11-year-old Carola Pessina - they're both avid tennis players from a small coastal town on the Italian Riviera. When the coronavirus outbreak forced their local tennis club to close, the girls improvised. And they took their game to the rooftops of their apartment buildings.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

VITTORIA: (Speaking Italian).

MARTIN: That video also caught the attention of tennis superstar Roger Federer.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ROGER FEDERER: When I saw the video on social media from the girls, I just thought, what a wonderful idea. You know, the passion doesn't go away just because of a lockdown.

MARTIN: Federer and one of his sponsors, pasta company Barilla, arranged a surprise. Vittoria and Carola thought they were doing just another TV interview until Federer showed up.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

FEDERER: I say hi to them, and then we'll see their reaction. And it could not have been more cute.

Ciao, Carola. Ciao, Vittoria. (Speaking Italian).

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: And the 20-time Grand Slam champ challenged them to a rooftop match.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

FEDERER: This today was the first time in a long, long time that I played tennis again. That's why we lost a lot of balls going down in the trucks. And with Vittoria and with Carola, we were laughing a lot. They couldn't believe I was making a lot of mistakes. But I think that was the beauty of it as well today, that actually I wasn't better than them. They were maybe even better than me sometimes because they got home court advantage here, not me (laughter).

MARTIN: Federer also invited the girls to train at an elite tennis academy. The lesson here, obviously - don't let a pandemic stop your tennis game or your creativity.

(SOUNDBITE OF HYAKKEI'S "MEMORIES OF THE SKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.