Federer: Twelve Final Days / It Hits All the Right Nostalgic Notes and a Very Effective “Commercial” for Professional Tennis

Federer: Twelve Final Days / It Hits All the Right Nostalgic Notes and a Very Effective “Commercial” for Professional Tennis

Even if you won fifteen Grand Slam tournaments and spent a record 237-straight weeks as the #1 ranked player on the ATP tour, knee injuries are a tricky business to bounce back from. Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer always assumed any surgery would spell the beginning of the end of his career—and he ruefully admits that turned out to be true. His knees were betraying him, but Federer still plans to retire on his own terms, at least to the degree his body allowed. Cameras were there to record his 2022 farewell to tennis, but fans are only now seeing the footage in Asif Kapadia & Joe Sabia’s documentary, Federer: Twelve Final Days, which premieres Thursday on Prime Video.

Federer holds a host of records, but more importantly for his fans, he was widely considered a paragon of good sportsmanship. Perhaps Novak Djokovic might have somewhat disagreed after their initial meetings, but by the time of Federer’s retirement, the two champions had developed a healthy mutual respect.

Regardless, Federer maintains a considerable fanbase, so his team carefully manages the release of his retirement announcement. Frankly, many expected it, given Federer’s frustrating recent appearances on tour. He himself reads a video statement, frequently choking up and moving his family to tears.


©Courtesy of Amazon Prime 

That is day one. Fittingly, it all concludes twelve days later at the Laver Cup, a tournament Federer helped create to honor revered early 1960s champion Rod Laver. Modeled on golf’s Ryder Cup, the Laver Cup pits an all-star European team versus players from the rest of the world. Obviously, the 2022 Laver Cup becomes a tribute to Federer. Despite his knees, Federer feels he might have one more doubles match left in him, if he is paired up with Rafael Nadal. Of course, teaming up with Nadal would boost just about any player’s confidence.

Everything that unfolds over Federer’s 12-day farewell was carefully scripted by his team, but the emotions are genuine and spontaneous. Kapadia and Sabia do not add any explanatory context, in hopes of convincing non-fans they should care about Federer. Nor is there the searing intimacy of Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy. Still, Federer certainly comes across as a devoted family, who famously took his wife and two sets of twins on tour with him during his prime (so to speak) years, which should help win over some newcomers.

Regardless, if you closely follow the sport, it is a pleasure to watch Federer reflect and kvetch with his contemporaries, including Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Murray. Similarly, it is good fun to hear him take stock of his career and the general state of the game with legends like Laver, John McEnroe (captain of Team World), and Bjorn Borg (captain of Team Europe). (The latter two might also mean something to tennis-ambivalent cineastes, thanks to Janus Metz’s excellent Borg vs. McEnroe.) However, it is a shame Kapadia and Sabia exclude commentary from younger players, especially American Frances Tiafoe, who was part of the doubles tandem facing Federer and Nadal at the 2022 Laver Cup.

Federer ©Courtesy of Amazon Prime 

As it pays tribute to Federer, there is an undercurrent of concern regarding tennis’s future that is discernable throughout Twelve Final Days. In addition to Federer’s retirement, everyone is clearly mindful Nadal only has so many matches left in him. (In fact, Nadal was widely expected to retire at this year’s French Open, but instead he announced plans to represent Spain at the upcoming Olympics.) However, free-swinging Carlos Alcaraz exploded on the scene in late 2022 and Jannik Sinner and Alexander Zverev have since emerged as his worthy rivals. Buttressed with fresh interest generated by Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers (which probably makes life on tour for lower ranked players look much sexier than it really is), the state of professional men’s tennis is probably healthier today than maybe ever before.

Of course, that is beyond the scope of the film and Federer’s 12-day farewell. Considering how effectively Kapadia and Sabia assemble and frame this tribute, it would not be surprising if Nadal might soon call Federer, asking their contact info. Regardless, it is nice to see Federer’s sportsmanship acknowledged, along with his athletic accomplishments. This is very definitely fan-service for “Fed-heads,” but it hits all the right nostalgic notes and it is a very effective “commercial” for professional tennis. Recommended for those who love the game, Federer: Twelve Final Days starts streaming Thursday (6/20) on Prime Video.


©Courtesy of Amazon Prime 

Grade : B-

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Here’s the trailer of the film. 


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