Go to a major tennis tournament and it’s hard to miss the Carota Boys, a team of six men decked in full-body, bright-orange carrot costumes. But you might hear them before you see them.
The group of 20-somethings are most likely to be found vociferously supporting world No. 4 Jannik Sinner, who, like them, also heralds from northern Italy.
It’s only over the past seven or so months that the Carota Boys’ love for Sinner has really blossomed, endearing themselves to the tennis public in the process.
“They are more famous than I am, to be honest,” Sinner told reporters during last month’s ATP Tour Finals in Turin, where he was cheered on by his small but dedicated carrot-clad army.
The six childhood friends – Lorenzo Ferrato, Francesco Gaboardi, Gianluca Bertorello, Enrico Ponsi, Alessandro Dedominici, and Alberto Mondino – are all from the northwest Italian town of Revello.
The conception of the Carota Boys originates with the friends’ tradition of buying tickets for tennis tournaments to celebrate each other’s birthdays. That included this year’s Italian Open in Rome, ahead of which they decided to buy carrot costumes for the occasion.
Their inspiration? Sinner had once eaten a carrot (or, in Italian, a carota) during a change of ends at a tournament in Vienna, Austria four years previously, though some drew a connection between the carrots and the tennis star’s orange hair.
Either way, the costumes immediately proved a hit.
“Before the match and after the match, a lot of people are going crazy with this idea, they’re asking us for a lot of pictures,” Ferrato tells CNN Sport.
The fan club wasn’t meant to last longer than a weekend, but after Rome, coffee company Lavazza got in touch and asked about the possibility of funding a trip to the French Open in Paris.
Things snowballed from there, and the Carota Boys later found themselves on planes to London for Wimbledon and New York for the US Open, all for the sake of dressing up as carrots and ardently supporting their favorite player. Their year ended closer to home at the ATP Tour Finals, watching Sinner reach the final before losing against Novak Djokovic.
“We found a lot of love for Jannik and for us,” Ferrato says about the atmosphere in Turin. During the tournament, they also had the opportunity to meet and play tennis with Sinner.
“[There was] some correlation between us,” Ferrato adds. “Jannik and all the Carota Boys are born in a place near the mountains. He loves skiing; for us, it’s the same. He loves family and friends and our team, the Carota Boys, it’s about the friendship that we have.”
Gaboardi, who first suggested buying the carrot costumes, agrees: “He’s a guy like us – a normal guy … He has a good mind and I think works a lot towards his future.”
Away from the tennis court, the group has also built a sizeable following on social media. They decided to create an Instagram account while traveling by train to Paris for the French Open, and since then have amassed more than 72,000 followers by posting funny, light-hearted videos about their fandom.
They also have their own line of merchandise – orange, of course – which includes t-shirts displaying their favorite refrain: “Let’s go Sinner, let’s go!”
Now, the Carota Boys are trying to decide what next year will hold. All of them have day jobs and need to take time off work each time they travel to a tournament, but they still have ambitions to make their fan club bigger and louder.
“With the Carota Boys, we’ve brought more people to cheer Jannik, so this makes us so happy and proud,” says Ferrato.
“It will be very cool to create something like a fan club worldwide, like [former MotoGP world champion] Valentino Rossi, or, I don’t know, in Formula One, for [Max] Verstappen or [Michael] Schumacher, something like this.”
The past year has been Sinner’s best to date, winning four ATP Tour titles, reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon, and defeating Djokovic in the ATP Finals group stage before the Serb got his revenge in the final.
When the pair met again in the Davis Cup last month, Sinner triumphed against the world No. 1 for a second time and went on to lift the trophy with Italy as his country defeated Australia 2-0 in the final.
Rangy and fast around the court, but also capable of hitting some of the heaviest ground shots in the men’s game, Sinner has developed into one of the toughest opponents on the ATP Tour.
“He’s an all-around player,” Djokovic has previously said. “He hits the ball in the sweet spot more or less on any surface, really, and he’s got a lot of talent. He has proven that he’s the future of our sport.”
Expectations are now high ahead of the 2024 season, and you know that the Carota Boys will be rooting for their favorite player throughout.
“In Italy, we say that we’ll bring bad luck if you do a prediction,” says Ferrato, before adding: “In our minds, we hope that next year will be the one when he wins a grand slam.”
For the fans dressed as carrots, Sinner’s first major title would spark their wildest, noisiest celebrations to date.