Beating Roger Federer

I don't know if you follow tennis (debate folks seem to have a love it or hate it relation to the sports wold), but Andy Roddick is, by any standard, an excellent tennis player. The guy won the US Open, made it to the finals of Wimbledon twice, and could serve a tennis ball through bulletproof glass. He kicks a large amount of ass on a regular basis.

Except, of course, the ass of Roger Federer. Federer and Roddick have met 18 times in competition, and Federer has lost 16 of those matches. Since both players are perpetually high in the rankings, many of these losses have come in the late elimination rounds at tournaments, leading to a lot of press photos like this:

Can you tell which one of these guys just got his butt kicked? Hint: it's not the one with the smug grin and big-ass cup.

I think if you live in an area where there is still some semblance of a local debate circuit, you know at least one Andy Roddick. Excellent debater, but after they steamroll through prelims they just keep running into their Federer and exiting the tournament.

Having been there (As Roddick, in case anyone wondered), it's a pretty frustrating position to be in. Obviously Semifinals or Finals is something to be proud about, but nobody likes to think that there is a team out there that they just can't beat. And even if you put in a massive amount of work to try to "one up" them with a new aff or some crazy kritik, there's no guarantee that when you see them again you'll be on the right side or have the right judges, so it could end up all going to waste.

We were never able to best our arch nemeses at Edina, so I suppose I don't have much strategic guidance to offer, but I will say that looking back I probably had more fun preparing for those rounds than for any others that year. There's something uniquely satisfying about the intensity of that "and then if they say this we'll read that card and then they'll be finished!" discussion. One thing that I think big tournaments miss out on is that grudge match level of competition. Of course, if the Glenbrooks is next weekend you can always have the satisfaction of watching your Federer fall to a Nadal of his own.

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