Over the weekend, tennis legend Roger Federer delivered a memorable graduation speech at Dartmouth University, captivating the students and a global audience. The 20-time Grand Slam champion opened with a light-hearted nod to his tennis career, drawing parallels between the university’s green colors and his favorite playing surface, grass, where he won eight Wimbledon titles.

Federer, who retired from professional tennis after the 2022 Laver Cup, shared a unique perspective with the graduates. Despite not finishing high school or attending college due to his tennis commitments, Federer connected deeply with the graduates, likening their transition to his current phase of life.

“So I never went to college… but I did graduate recently. I graduated tennis,” Federer said. “I know the word is ‘retire.’ ‘Roger Federer retired from tennis. Retired… The word is awful. You wouldn’t say you retired from college, right? Sounds terrible.”

Federer said, “Like you, I’ve finished one big thing, and I’m moving on to the next. Like you, I’m figuring out what that is. Graduates, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like when people ask what your plan is for the rest of your life. They ask me: ‘Now that you are not a professional tennis player, what do you do? I don’t know… and it’s ok not to know.”

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The core of Federer’s speech revolved around three lessons from tennis: “Effortless is a myth, it’s only a point, and life is bigger than the court. While drawn from his illustrious career, these lessons were profoundly applicable to the graduates’ futures.

The second lesson, “It’s only a point, resonated well. Federer shared a striking statistic: despite winning 80% of his matches, he only won 54% of the points he played.

“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,Federer said. 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. The truth is, whatever game you play in life, sometimes you’re going to lose. A point, a match, a season, a job. It’s a roller coaster with many ups and downs. And it’s natural, when you’re down, to doubt yourself. To feel sorry for yourself. And by the way, your opponents have self-doubt, too. Don’t ever forget that. But negative energy is wasted energy. You want to become a master at overcoming hard moments. That, to me, is the sign of a champion.

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