Roger Federer joined two Italian schoolgirls for a game of tennis on the rooftop of an apartment building after they earned international fame with 12 million Twitter views with their lockdown match video.
The tennis champion, 38, took a private jet to surprise friends Vittoria Oliveri, 13, and Carola Pessina, 11, at their homes in Finale Ligure, Italy.
The girls, both avid tennis players, had been unable to visit the courts during Italy’s tough lockdown in April.
But they had been instructed by their coach to keep practising so came up with the rooftop alternative, which soon went viral.
Federer, winner of 20 Grand Slam competitions, praised it as a ‘wonderful idea’ and wanted to get in on the action.
He added: ‘The passion does not go away just because of a lockdown. I think that their video really resonated with a lot of people and with me too.’
In the clip, after meeting Federer for the first time, Vittoria said: ‘I nearly fainted. I didn’t think he was real, I thought it was a mannequin.’
The buildings, which are three stories up, are around 8.5 metres apart and with the girls standing four to five metres away from the edges, the improvised space proved to be a similar size to that of a true tennis court.
After the hour-long session, and having sent a few balls flying on to the cars parked down on the street, Federer said: ‘This was the first time I played tennis in a long, long time.
‘They couldn’t believe I was making a lot of mistakes — they were better than me sometimes. They had home court advantage.’
In February, the tennis pro had surgery on his right knee, followed by a further procedure, before declaring that he would not play for the rest of the year.
At the end of the heart-warming clip Federer invited the girls to join the tennis school run by rival Rafael Nadal in Mallorca.