“I wish you all the very best for your future. For those who go on to play professional tennis you know what it takes.” —Roger Federer
On Tuesday, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova joined fellow heralded athlete Rafael Nadal in delivering commencement speeches to the Rafa Nadal International School, class of 2020. Due to COVID-19, the venue was set up to accommodate social distancing. The Swiss and the Russian appeared live on video, while the Spaniard assembled with the students.
To honor all the victims of the coronavirus, the ceremony started with a moment of silence. Nadal, who opened the academy in October of 2016 in his hometown of Mallorca, then spoke to the 34 grade 12 graduates, congratulating them on their special day.
“I hope you are happy that your children are able to have a graduation, as unfortunately most people will not be able to,” Nadal said. “We have been through very difficult and complicated times. I hope it has been a period of learning for all of you. Life, most of the time, is not easy. Hopefully this period of time has helped you to gain strength and experience for the challenges you may face in the future.
“We can learn from all of this that we need to be surrounded by good people, those that give us positive things so that life is more positive. It is vital to make the right decisions at key times in our lives.”
The students were in for a big surprise as 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer popped up on the big screen to wish them well.
“I wish you all the very best for your future. For those who go on to play professional tennis, you know what it takes,” said Federer. “A lot of perseverance, hard work and never forget to have fun. Because I think, that’s the most important and that’s what has separated maybe Rafa and myself that we never lost our passion for what we are doing every single day. There’s going to be rainy days, it’s going to be tough days but there is always a silver lining. There is always going to be the sun that’s going to come back around.”
Next up was five-time major champion Sharapova, who retired from the sport in February of 2020 after enduring a slew of injuries. The former world No. 1 “applauded” the students for their motivation, hard work and effort.
“I can only imagine that the last few weeks have been incredibly challenging being away from your family and your friends and also graduating in this environment must be very different to how you pictured it,” said Sharapova. “So I applaud you for your motivation for your hard work and your effort and I encourage you to keep going and keep striving to be the best in your sport.”
Meanwhile, Federer announced on Wednesday that he had to undergo a second right-knee surgery after suffering a setback during rehab.