June 10, 2024

Roger Federer recently looked back on his defeat in the 2008 Wimbledon Championships final to Rafael Nadal during his commencement address for the Class of 2024 at Dartmouth College. The Swiss maestro joked that the encounter at SW19, which is lauded by many to be the greatest tennis match of all time, would’ve been more memorable had he prevailed.

Roger Federer retired from pro tennis at the 2022 Laver Cup following chronic knee injury struggles. The 20-time Major winner has remained a popular figure in the sport despite his absence from the circuit and has made semi-regular public appearances in the last two years.

This week, Federer received an honorary degree at the 2024 Dartmouth College commencement, following which he gave an entertaining speech to this year’s graduating class. The 42-year-old took on the subject of how to deal with losses in life as he recalled coming up short to Rafael Nadal in the final at Wimbledon in 2008.

Nadal defeated the then-World No. 1 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 to win his first title at the All England Club. The latter said to the Class of 2024 at Dartmouth that he really wanted to win the final, as it would’ve put him on an elusive list of Wimbledon champions.

“I tried not to lose, but I did lose. Sometimes, big. For me, one of the biggest was finals at Wimbledon in 2008. Me vs Nadal,” Roger Federer said during his speech. “Some call it the greatest match of all time… all respect to Rafa, but I think it would’ve been way, way better if I had won. Losing at Wimbledon was a big deal. Because winning Wimbledon was everything… In 2008, I was going for a record six consecutive titles, I was playing for history.” (11:02 onwards)

Roger Federer on Wimbledon 2008 title clash: “Looking back, I feel like I lost at the very first point of the match”

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer embrace after their Wimbledon 2008 encounter
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer embrace after their Wimbledon 2008 encounter

Roger Federer then insisted during the same speech that he was mentally out of the match at the beginning. By his own admission, Rafael Nadal had put a dent in his confidence by beating him in straight sets in the French Open final a couple of weeks prior to their title match at SW19.

“The final minutes were so dark, you could barely see the chalk… but looking back, I feel like I lost at the very first point of the match,” Federer said. “I looked across at the net and I saw a guy, who just a few weeks ago crushed me in straight sets at the French Open. And I thought, ‘Maybe this guy is hungrier than I am, and he’s finally got my number.'” (12:20)

That said, he was satisfied with his level in the latter stages of the match and also claimed that Nadal’s first Wimbledon title victory was well deserved.

“It took me until the third set to remember, ‘Hey buddy, you’re the five-time defending champion, and you’re on grass, by the way! You know how to do this.’ But it came too late and Rafa won, and it was well deserved,” he said.

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