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Tribeca 2024: Twelve Final Days Provides an Intimate Farewell to Roger Federer

Photo: courtesy Prime Video.

You miss Roger Federer, you say? His inventive shotmaking, genteel demeanor, effervescent style, and cheeky humor? The revolutionary all-court game that took him to a then-record—and at the time, thought unsurpassable—20 Grand Slam singles titles? The dizzying dominance he enjoyed in the aughts before his younger rivals took sight and took over? If so, Federer: Twelve Final Days is on its way from Prime Video to assuage your grief. Though with its intimate behind-the-the scenes approach to the tennis legend’s retirement, the documentary’s emotional pull might just have you pining still for the days of yore.

Federer: Twelve Final Days is all about the very, very last moments of Roger Federer’s official playing career, beginning with the formal announcement of his retirement on Sept. 15, 2023 and concluding with his last professional match, a Laver Cup doubles tie contested with longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal against Jack Sock and Francis Tiafoe. Including and in between those moments, directors Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia follow Federer and his family from his home in Wollerau, Switzerland to London, charting these final weeks with a verité approach to his reflections on his storied career and preparations for his final match.

Roger Federer prepares his retirement announcement in Federer: Twelve Final Days, photo: courtesy Prime Video.
Roger Federer prepares his retirement announcement in Federer: Twelve Final Days, photo: courtesy Prime Video.

That Twelve Final Days was not, originally, intended as a feature-length documentary for public release accounts for much of its charm. According to its makers, it began as a simple home video—simple, that is, if you are one of the world’s richest and most accomplished sportspersons and for whom a “home video” means a professional documentary crew. Yet Twelve Final Days is modest in its reach and charm. It stays close to Federer and his tight-knit family—wife Mirka, his two sets of twins (girls Charlene and Myla Rose, boys Lennart and Leo), and parents Robert and Lynette, who have their own quarters in Roger and Mirka’s house—and their small entourage as they travel. Federer is not by any means camera-shy but historically has kept his children, especially, at some remove from the press, and while Mirka is an ever-present manager and spouse, she has only rarely talked with the press. To have any access at all to Federer family life is practically unprecedented.

So too is the behind-the-scenes footage captured at the Laver Cup event that would conclude Federer’s formal playing career. The competition is one Federer himself helped create, imitating the format of golf’s Ryder Cup, in 2017. It is not regarded as an “official” ATP or ITF event, but in the wake of the slow decline of Davis Cup competition it has drawn top stars and excellent attendance.  its global format (“Team Europe” faces off each year against “Team World,” or, for all practical purposes, everyone else) and embrace of tennis legacy with being named for Rod Laver and 70s legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe captaining the squads.

(L-R) Rafael Nadal, Andy Murry, and Novak Djokovic pose as Roger Feder takes a selfie on a boat en route to London's O2 arena.
(L-R) Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic pose as Roger Federer takes a selfie on a boat en route to London’s O2 arena in Federer: Twelve Final Days, photo: courtesy Prime Video.

In that the 2022 event brought together tennis’s longtime “Big Four”—Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray—to compete together, the occasion seemed perfect for Federer’s final match. Having been sidelined with a series of knee operations and injuries for most of the last two years and no longer a major threat, Federer by this time found his body frail and his comeback frustrating. At Wimbledon the prior year, nearly forty years old, he had been roundly thumped 6-0 in the third by Hubert Hurkacz in the round of 16 in his last professional match—a sobering indication that the end of his career was near.

The Laver Cup, though competitive, is very much a celebratory event and as so an occasion to match Roger Federer’s retirement. There are cordial greetings and kind words between rivals, longtime competitors turned teammates, and smiles all around. Action from Federer and Nadal’s final match together is cut against archival footage of Roger as a young boy, competing in the juniors, long before he would achieve greatness, often cleverly juxtaposed with similar poses or gestures. It’s a nice touch in a documentary that focuses more on the moment than on cataloguing Federer’s history of on-court accomplishments.

A young Roger Federer on a changeover, competing as a junior in 1994, in Federer: Twelve Final Days, photo: courtesy Prime Video.
A young Roger Federer on a changeover, competing as a junior in 1994, in Federer: Twelve Final Days, photo: courtesy Prime Video.

Fans of Federer’s will certainly enjoy Twelve Final Days’ fly-on-the-wall perspective as Federer shares selfies and smiles with his rivals, friends, and families. Never mind that the scoreline would present one more slightly ignominious defeat, sadly with Federer holding a match point, on serve, just as he had more than once against Djokovic in grand slam finals. Federer’s fans will surely overlook a few moments of failure for all of the grandeur and glory his long career provided, and Twelve Final Days will give them a fond farewell.

Presented by Prime Video Sports, Federer: Twelve Final Days is a Lafcadia Productions production, produced by Asif Kapadia and George Chignell, and directed by Kapadia and Joe Sabia. It debuts on Prime Video June 20, 2024.

Written by J Paul Johnson

J Paul Johnson is Publisher of Film Obsessive. A professor emeritus of film studies and an avid cinephile, collector, and curator, his interests range from classical Hollywood melodrama and genre films to world and independent cinemas and documentary.

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