In an interview to El Comercio, Rodolfo Rake recalled when he defeated the 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer on May 19, 1996, in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open. ‘At that moment, I was ranked five or sixth in the world in juniors, I was 18 years old,’ said Rake.
‘Roger had turned 16 and was playing in the 18-year category, we had to play in the Italian Open quarter-finals.’ He also revealed an interesting thing: ‘When I had my first job interview in an important bank, the person started reviewing my curriculum and they suddently saw the section of the CV where you put “other activities” and there he saw that I was a tennis player, that I had won against Federer, Massu, Puerta.
Suddently, who is now my boss asked me: “Did you really defeat Federer?” And I told him about the history. At that moment, in 2005, Federer was the untouchable world no. 1 in the tennis rankings. Then, the final sentence of my boss was: “If you won against that guy, you deserve that I give you this opportunity.” If I had not won against Federer, I may not have been here.’ Speaking about that match in detail, he concluded: ’20 years have gone by, but I remember that Roger already had a super powerful forehand like now.
He had a very natural talent, a brutal slice, he moved like if he was flying on the court. The only thing that was missing, which is the reason why I defeated him and the reason why Nadal sometimes beat him, was that I was making things complicated to him playing with a lot of spin, I hit a lot of spin on the forehand side and these heavy and deep balls made him struggle a lot.
Mentally, he was another person. When Federer was playing juniors he was crazy, was losing the calm in a very fast way. The second set was very hard and in a point on deuce he made me run, I hit a defensive shots and he hit a smash making the ball end outside the court.
He lost the focus and I won the match.’ Asked if he is back to meet Federer on the professional tour, he replied: ‘I think we met each other in a tournament in 2000. It would have been interesting to see him when he became a tennis legend and to ask him if he remembered me.’