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Review of “Federer: Twelve Final Days”: A rudimentary yet nostalgic portrayal of the swan song of a sports legend

An emotional Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the Laver Cup 2022

An emotional Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the Laver Cup 2022 | Photo credit: Prime Video/YouTube

For the millions of Roger Federer fans, the inevitable happened on September 15, 2022, when the tennis legend read an emotional message confirming his retirement from the sport. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever dreamed and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career,” he said, ending his illustrious 24-year career in which he won 20 Majors and played more than 1,500 matches.

In the documentation Federer: Twelve final days, Filmmakers Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia follow the 12 days leading up to the Swiss champion’s final competition, when he plays doubles against arch-rival and best friend Rafael Nadal in the Laver Cup at London’s O2 Arena. It’s a bold idea to understand the mindset of a sporting legend as he prepares to take to the court one last time.

The result, however, is rather rudimentary, as we don’t feel the anticipation of the long-awaited swan song. We see Federer mostly trying to keep his emotions under control, and only a few light-hearted, nervous moments – where he expresses his fear of retirement – give us a glimpse of what’s going on in his head.

Roger Federer: Twelve Final Days (English/Documentary)

Directors: Asif Kapadia, Joe Sabia

Duration: 127 minutes

Action: The documentary captures the final chapter in Roger Federer’s legendary tennis career

The first part of the documentary mainly deals with how Federer suffered through numerous knee surgeries at the end of his career and nothing else. Since it is an account of Federer’s life and career and Kapadia, a documentary expert, was leading the project, we expect more depth from the product. But Kapadia does not go beyond the core idea of ​​documenting the final days of the tennis legend’s journey.

Federer: Twelve final days opens with images of many of Federer’s incredible shots – the stunning tweener and the incredible passing shots – as we see him evolve from his boyish, aggressive persona into a stylish and versatile player. But it leaves us wishing he would explain how he mastered those shots that made him an artistic genius.

The documentary is not particularly insightful, as it does not explore the reasons for Federer’s mystique. It does not question how his legendary peers and the increasingly competitive field of men’s tennis have damaged his invincibility, nor does it attempt to understand the spirited attitude that helped him rebuild his game and make a remarkable comeback that saw him become the oldest No. 1 in the world.

Roger Federer with the Wimbledon trophy.

Roger Federer with the Wimbledon trophy. | Photo credit: Prime Video/YouTube

Federer’s thoughts on the game keep us interested despite the boring passages. Interestingly, he compares tennis to chess, saying “the battle between two players is psychological” and adding that he loves to beat his opponent at his own game.

As the action turns to the Laver Cup, we get an idea of ​​how Federer developed into a great ambassador for the sport, while his contemporaries and many stars of yesteryear rave about his talent.

In the pre-tournament press conference, he talks about his first tennis hero, Björn Borg. When he had his breakthrough, Federer was considered the ideal replacement for the great Pete Sampras, perhaps because of the Swiss’s dominance on the grass, just like the 14-time Grand Slam champion. But Federer remembers idolizing the legendary Björn Borg, as he was blown away by his skills and stylish image off the court.

The best part of the documentary, as expected, revolves around Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is described as a party crasher, the second guest in Federer’s career. The Serb had to fight for his place in the Federer-obsessed tennis community by correcting technical errors and developing a never-give-up spirit. Federer admits that he did not “show enough respect” to Djokovic in the early stages of his career.

His camaraderie with Nadal is a nice anomaly despite their famously intense rivalry. While he maintained a formal relationship with Djokovic, Federer considered Nadal a good friend, and that explains why he announced his decision to hang up his boots 10 days before making it official. Their rivalry fueled the sport of tennis and helped both players thrive on the court.

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The emotional ending of the documentary, which shows the man breaking down more than once, is quite fitting and not overly cheesy. For those who have watched his game, the defining moments of his final game, the way everyone rallies around him and his parting words to his friends and fans are quite overwhelming.

The final part of the documentary is a nostalgic experience for Federer fans and will surely remind them of the times when they woke up at odd hours to witness his effortless dominance, step onto the court for big matches, rejoice at his devastating forehand or pinpoint first serve and, most importantly, hear those decisive words from the umpire: “Game, set and match, Roger Federer!”

Federer: Twelve Final Days will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video

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