Federer: Twelve Final Days Review

Federer: Twelve Final Days
A behind-the-scenes documentary detailing the 12 last days of tennis legend Roger Federer’s playing career, from the announcement of his retirement to his final bow at 2022’s Laver Cup.

by Liz Moody |
Published on

The last two years have seen the inexorable winding up of an era in men’s tennis that we will likely never see again. Dominated by the ‘Big Three’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (Four with Britain’s Andy Murray), sheer charisma and distinct personalities brought a gladiatorial edge that transcended the sport. And as we watched them grow from callow boys, to men, to husbands/fathers — while seemingly rarely missing a shot — fans grew to love them with a quite unprecedented passion, perhaps none more so than Swiss superstar Federer.

Federer: Twelve Final Days

Federer: Twelve Final Days is the latest documentary from Asif Kapadia — here co-directing with 73 Questions host/creator Joe Sabia, for Amazon Studios — who did such magnificent work in unpicking the tragic deaths of Formula 1’s Ayrton Senna and singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. Here the pair detail the last 12 days of Federer’s storied career — 24-plus years as a pro, more than 1,500 matches, records smashed as regularly as balls — and, while of course far from comparable to the narratives of Senna or Amy, attempt to convey the painful emotions ­he experiences as he comes to the end. Warning: there are many, many tears.

There is no doubt this will be huge fun for tennis nuts

The content is largely what we’ve come to expect of the sports documentary — contributions from peers, family, agent, pundits and fans spliced with fuzzy 4:3 TV clips from the late ’90s/early ’00s and footage of Fed’s endlessly graceful balleticism on the court — hung around a camera crew following Roger from the eve of his retirement announcement to his final match some 12 days later at 2022’s Laver Cup. There is no doubt this will be huge fun for tennis nuts, with intimate footage of one of its biggest stars taking meetings, hanging out with family and larking about in the locker room.

Interestingly, the film tacitly — but not really tacitly at all — builds to a final act that puts fierce rival/dear friend/sometime partner-in-uncontrollable-giggling Rafael Nadal almost front and centre — or at least, right beside the main man, where he lived, professionally that is, for nearly two decades. Tribute is paid to how the pair pushed each other, and the sport, to new heights, evolving from arch nemeses (on court anyway) to beloved elder statesmen with a common foe in a suddenly supersized Novak Djokovic — throughout their careers maintaining a deep mutual respect that remains unparalleled in any sport. Only the hardest of hearts will be unstirred by a sobbing Nadal watching Federer bid farewell in London’s O2 Arena.

But this is of course Federer’s film, and for many there will be genuine interest in meeting the goofily affable man behind the cream suit, famous embroidered jacket and the Rolex watches, quick to laugh at himself, and quite the self-deprecating geek. We see Hugh Grant watching him courtside, Vogue matriarch/Roger BFF Anna Wintour ringing just to check he’s okay about it all, and three sisters who’ve travelled from Kenya to London simply to say goodbye. There’s no doubt he’s been truly loved, and as is communicated here repeatedly, was key in changing the status of his sport forever. As such, Kapadia and Sabia’s documentary is a fittingly respectful if hardly revelatory farewell.

More solid Prime Video Sports Doc than Subject-Transcending Asif Kapadia Investigation, Twelve Final Days is nonetheless an entertaining, occasionally illuminating and at times surprisingly moving look at the final bow of a genuine tennis legend.
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