Highlights from Roger Federer’s Commencement Address at Dartmouth College

On June 9, at Dartmouth College’s Commencement Day, Roger Federer delivered a powerful, and slightly humorous address in Hanover, New Hampshire. The 20-time Grand Slam champion also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his philanthropic contributions through the Roger Federer Foundation.

The former Swiss professional tennis player started his speech on a light note, confessing it was only the second time ever he’d set foot on a college campus. “I just came here to give a speech, but I get to go home as ‘Dr. Roger.’ That’s a pretty nice bonus,” he said, laughing. Standing on “The Green,” he shared some humorous anecdotes about his visit to Dartmouth, including playing “Pong,” and enjoying the “FoCo chocolate chip cookies.”

The former World no. 1, who left school at the age of 16 to turn professional in 1998 and retired in September 2022 at the Laver Cup, admitted that he disliked the term “retired” and called himself a “tennis graduate,” as he is now “figuring out” the next chapter of his life. Drawing parallels from his decorated career and life as a tennis player, Federer quickly pivoted to sharing some life lessons with the audience.

Calling them “tennis lessons,” he started with a profound first lesson: “Effortless … is a myth.”

Famously regarded as “effortless” by countless players, experts, and fans, thanks to his fluid style of play, Federer emphasized the significance of hard work, discipline, self-belief, and putting in the work. He emphasized how he had to focus on those values to achieve his level of success. He also highlighted the importance of developing and relying on multiple strengths, as talent alone was not enough for glory. This helped him outdo his opponents to win bigger and better.

His next lesson was “It’s only a point.” He recounted his storied 2008 Wimbledon final loss against Rafael Nadal. As the five-time defending champion, poised to win at the time, “I feel like I lost at the very first point of the match,” he said, talking about the importance of having the right attitude. He stressed the importance of committing to the moment, but letting it go once it’s done. “When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world. But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you… This mindset is really crucial because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… with intensity, clarity and focus,” he shared.

Drawing from his intensive experience of having played 1,526 matches and winning 103 career titles, he acknowledged the impossibility of perfection and revealed that even as a successful player, he had only won 54% of the points he’d played.”The best in the world are not the best because they win every point… It’s because they know they’ll lose… again and again… and have learned how to deal with it.”

His third, and final lesson was “Life is bigger than a tennis court,” urging graduates to remember where they come from but not to hold themselves back from exploring the world. He also talked about his philanthropic efforts through his foundation that he started at the age of 22, inspiring young minds to contribute to the world in unique ways.

Federer ended his speech by grabbing his racquet and giving the graduates actual tennis lessons, demonstrating various techniques. Drawing a burst of big laughter from the crowd, he taught them how to hit a good forehand (“always use an Eastern grip”), switch to backhand from forehand, and to have good footwork.

In his concluding remark, Federer urged graduates to “Give it your best. Go for your shots, Play Free. Try everything. And most of all, be kind to one another… and have fun out there.”

You can also watch Federer’s entire address for yourself:
https://x.com/BastienFachan/status/1800125126035362194

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