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Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all times, held court at a Dartmouth commencement and served up seven life aces.

Roger’s Speech

Today, I want to share a few lessons I’ve relied on through this transition.

Let’s call them… tennis lessons.

“Effortless”… is a myth.

I say that as someone who has heard that word a lot. “Effortless.”

People would say my play was effortless. Most of the time, they meant it as a compliment… But it used to frustrate me when they would say, “He barely broke a sweat!” Or “Is he even trying?”

The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy.

I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool. The wakeup call came early in my career, when an opponent at the Italian Open publicly questioned my mental discipline. He said, “Roger will be the favorite for the first two hours, and then I’ll be the favorite after that.”

I was puzzled at first. But eventually, I realized what he was trying to say. Everybody can play well the first two hours. You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re clear… and after two hours, your legs get wobbly, your mind starts wandering, and your discipline starts to fade.


It made me understand… I have so much work ahead of me.Thank you! I’m eternally grateful for what you did.

So I started training harder. A lot harder.

Yes, talent matters. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it doesn’t. But talent has a broad definition. Most of the time, it’s not about having a gift. It’s about having grit.

In tennis, a great forehand with sick racquet head speed can be called a talent. But in tennis… like in life… discipline is also a talent. And so is patience. Trusting yourself is a talent. Embracing the process, loving the process, is a talent. Managing your life, managing yourself… these can be talents, too.

It’s only a point.

You can work harder than you thought possible… and still lose. I have.

Tennis is brutal. There’s no getting around the fact that every tournament ends the same way… one player gets a trophy… Every other player gets back on a plane, stares out of the window, and thinks… “how the hell did I miss that shot?”

I tried not to lose.

But I did lose… sometimes big. For me, one of the biggest was the finals at Wimbledon in 2008. Me vs. Nadal. Some call it the greatest match of all time. OK, all respect to Rafa, but I think it would have been way way better if I had won…

Losing at Wimbledon was a big deal… because winning Wimbledon is everything.

Some defeats hurt more than others. I knew I would never get another shot at six in a row. I lost Wimbledon and my number-one ranking. And suddenly, people said, “He had a great run. Is this the changing of the guard?”


In tennis, perfection is impossible… In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches… Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches?

Only 54%.

In other words, even top-ranked tennis players win barely more than half of the points they play.

When you lose every second point, on average, you learn not to dwell on every shot.

You teach yourself to think: OK, I double-faulted. It’s only a point.

OK, I came to the net and I got passed again. It’s only a point.

Even a great shot, an overhead backhand smash that ends up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays: that, too, is just a point.

Here’s why I am telling you this.

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.

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.

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. 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.

You accept it.
Cry it out if you need to… then force a smile.
You move on. Be relentless. Adapt and grow.
Work harder. Work smarter.

Life is bigger than the court.

A tennis court is a small space. 2,106 square feet, to be exact. That’s for singles matches.

I worked a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot of miles in that small space… But the world is a whole lot bigger than that… Even when I was just starting out, I knew that tennis could show me the world… but tennis could never be the world.

Tennis has given me so many memories. But my off-court experiences are the ones I carry forward just as much… The places I’ve gotten to travel… the platform that lets me give back… and, most of all… the people I’ve met along the way.


1. Effortless is a myth

2. Belief in yourself has to be earned

3. Grit > Gift

4. Discipline is talent

5. Trust and loving the process is talent

6. You can do your best and still lose

7. Life is bigger than the court

What point stood out to you? Join the conversation and post a comment below. Thank you.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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