Federer's Dartmouth commencement speech: 'Dr. Roger' explains why 'effortless' is a myth

  • Posted: Jun 10, 2024

All eyes were on Roland Garros Sunday for the final of the clay-court major between Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev. But on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Roger Federer was serving aces of his own.

The former No. 1 player in the PIF ATP Rankings delivered a memorable commencement speech to 11,000 people in person and thousands more virtually. The Swiss icon was awarded with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

“Really, you have no idea how excited I am. Keep in mind, this is literally the second time I have ever set foot on a college campus. Second time ever.
But for some reason, you are giving me a doctorate degree,” Federer said, cracking a laugh. “I just came here to give a speech, but I get to go home as ‘Dr. Roger’. That’s a pretty nice bonus.

“‘Dr. Roger’. This has to be my most unexpected victory ever!”

Federer spoke about his friendship with agent and business partner Tony Godsick, a Dartmouth alumnus, who was in attendance to watch his daughter, Isabella Godsick, graduate. The 103-time tour-level titlist shared three key lessons:

– “Effortless” is a myth.

– It’s only a point.

– Life is bigger than the court.


Federer also addressed the idea of retirement, a word he is not too fond of. He viewed his retirement as graduation from tennis.

“So what do I do with my time? I’m a dad first, so, I guess, I drive my kids to school? Play chess online against strangers? Vacuum the house?” Federer said. “No, in truth, I’m loving the life of a tennis graduate.” 

The 42-year-old discussed his philanthropic work and much more, even taking time to briefly provide technical advice.

“President Beilock, can I have my racquet real quick? Okay, so, for your forehand, you’ll want to use an eastern grip. Keep your knuckles apart a little bit. Obviously, you don’t want to squeeze the grip too hard,” Federer said. “Switching from forehand to backhand should be easy… Also, remember it all starts with the footwork, and the take-back is as important as the follow-through. No, this is not a metaphor! It’s just good technique.”

Federer embraced the opportunity and made clear how important it was to him.

“If you are ever in Switzerland, or anywhere else in the world, and you see me on the street… even 20 or 30 years from now… whether I have gray hair or no hair… I want you to stop me and say… ‘I was there that day on the Green. I’m a member of your class… the Class of 2024’,” Federer said. “I will never forget this day, and I know you won’t either.”

In closing, the former World No. 1 said: “Whatever game you choose, 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.”


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