Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Graduation Speech Went Viral For All the Right Reasons

Tennis legend Roger Federer gives a speech at Dartmouth University's graduation.
Tennis legend Roger Federer gives a speech at Dartmouth University's graduation. / Dartmouth/Screengrab

Roger Federer delivered an already iconic graduation speech at Dartmouth University over the weekend, inspiring more than just the students sitting in the audience.

He opened the speech noting how coincidental it was that Dartmouth's colors are green since "grass is my favorite surface." Federer, of course, was nodding to his eight Wimbledon titles.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion admitted that he didn't even finish high school, let alone attend college, because of his tennis career. He reeled the students in with his comparisons to their current position as graduates to his current lifestyle as a retired tennis player. Federer retired after the 2022 Laver Cup.

"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.

"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 keep asking 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 O.K. not to know."

Federer's core of his speech, though, was focused on three tennis lessons: "Effortless" is a myth, it's only a point and life is bigger than the court.

The second lesson, "it's only a point," specifically stood out to audiences watching the speech online as Federer made some interesting observations about his tennis career. For instance, he revealed that in his career, he won 80% of his matches but 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."

Federer couldn't help but give an actual tennis tip to end his speech, too, as he demonstrated how to better your forehand. This sparked some laughter in the crowd.

Check out Federer's full speech below.

Madison Williams


Madison Williams is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated, where she has covered the entire sports landscape since 2022. She specializes in tennis, but covers a wide range of sports from a national perspective. Before joining Sports Illustrated, Madison worked with The Sporting News. She hails from Augustana College and completed a Master’s in Sports Media at Northwestern University. Madison is a dog mom and an avid reader.