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Italian tennis youngsters happy to hit the roof during virus

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Rome (AFP)

Tennis players, like athletes everywhere, are finding inventive ways to train with courts closed and contact banned, but two youngsters in Italy have taken it to a higher level: the roof.

When the tennis club in Finale Ligure, a small town in northern Italy, closed at the beginning of March, as part of Italy's fight against the coronavirus pandemic, its coaches challenged their young players to find inventive ways to keep training and to film themselves doing it.

The result is a series of videos posted on the Tennisclub Finale Facebook page.

They showed youngsters practising their strokes with or without rackets or, in one case, with a long handled broom.

Several show players hitting balls against walls in the street or in parking lots or even in their bedroom or the family living room, with the wide-screen television positioned ominously close to the apex of the forehand swing.

The videos resembled many others being posted on social media under the #tennisathome hashtag, but one stood out, catching the attention of the ATP and tennis players and fans around the world.

Vittoria, 14, and Carola, 11, climbed onto the rooftop terraces of their buildings, which face each other across the street. There they lofted shots over the guard rails and the road, running round not only their backhands but also boiler vents as the ball bounced, not on the clay they are used to but on concrete slabs.

"It was their idea. They know each other well, they're friends and they live in neighbouring buildings," their coach Dionisio Poggi, told AFP.

"They are not the same age, so they don't train in the same group and don't play in the same category. But they are both strong and play competitively," the coach said.

"Carola, who is 11, is in the top two or three in the region in her age group."

Tracy Austin, a former world number one who built her game on hitting long, retweeted the video.

"This is next level #TennisAtHome! I don't think this can be topped. Keep the ball deep."

"Really nice to see," tweeted the Greek star.

Vittoria and Carola are enjoying the attention.

"The girls saw that it was getting bigger. They're overjoyed," said coach concluded.

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