Most kids who play a sport have a favorite player they look up to, but most kids don’t get the chance to meet their idol face to face, much less have the gumption to challenge them to a competition.
In 2017, a 6-year-old boy named Izyan Ahmad (better known by his nickname, Zizou) had the opportunity to talk to tennis great Roger Federer at a press conference at the U.S. Open. Zizou asked the tennis great the cutest question: “Hi, Mr. Federer. Can you please continue to play for eight, nine years so that I can play you when I go pro?” Federer said yes. “Is that a promise?” Zizou prodded. “Pinky promise,” Roger responded with a huge grin.
It was a sweet encounter, but one most wouldn’t expect to go beyond a cute viral moment.
Fast forward to 2022. Zizou is now 11 years old and has ranked as the No. 1 player under age 12 in the U.S in both singles and doubles. He serves as Eastern ambassador for the U.S. Tennis Association and is clearly on his way to a successful tennis career.
In a special surprise orchestrated by Federer and his sponsor Barilla, Zizou had the best day of his life (so far) in Zurich, Switzerland. Zizou’s coach accompanied him to Europe, allegedly for a training event. As they sat down to eat together, the waiter told them his boss was a huge fan of his and wanted to meet him.
Zizou was surprised but thrilled when the woman came to the table to take a picture with him and revealed a T-shirt with his face on it. Meanwhile, Roger Federer watched giddily from behind the scenes, grinning from ear to ear at Zizou getting the star treatment.
Suddenly, voices start chanting “Zizou! Zizou!” and the young man turns toward them. “What the…” he says, confused about what’s happening.
The chanting and clapping were coming from the tennis court, where Zizou was led to receive the surprise of a lifetime.
How delightful is that?
Zizou shared the video and his thoughts about the day on Instagram while wishing Federer a happy birthday on August 8.
“When the GOAT makes a promise, he keeps it! That’s what makes him such an idol! We spent half a day with him, but his humility, grace, smiling personality, ability to make everyone around him instantly comfortable, magnifies his persona and shows me that you cannot be a great sportsman unless you are a great person first. Thank you Mr. Federer, for the best day of my life, for these memories and I am forever grateful that you kept your pinky promise!” HAPPY BIRTHDAY G.O.A.T!”
Definitely a day this young man will never forget. He may not have gone pro just yet, but with this kind of dedication and support, he’s surely on his way.