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TENNIS

VIDEO: Watch Italian kids play tennis across the rooftops under lockdown

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.

VIDEO: Watch Italian kids play tennis across the rooftops under lockdown
Vittoria and Carola hit a rally across the rooftops in Finale Liguria, northern Italy. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

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.


Carola Pessina practices in her stairway. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

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.”

Carola serves to Vittoria from her building across the street. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

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.”

Men's world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas was also impressed. “Really nice to see,” tweeted the Greek star.


Vittoria Olivieri collects fallen tennis balls using a fishing rod. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

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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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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