'Federer: Twelve Final Days' review: An early but nostalgic account of a sports legend's final moments

'Federer: Twelve Final Days' review: An early but nostalgic account of a sports legend's final moments

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 millions of Roger Federer fans, the inevitable happened on September 15, 2022, when the tennis legend read out an emotional note confirming his retirement from the sport. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I could have ever dreamed, and I must now recognise when it is time to end my competitive career,” he said, ending a glorious 24-year career that saw him win 20 majors and play over 1,500 games.

In the documentary Federer: Twelve final days, Filmmakers Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia track the 12 days leading up to the Swiss master's final competitive match, in which he will play a doubles match with his arch-rival and great friend Rafael Nadal at 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 for the last time.

However, the result is largely unremarkable, as we don't feel any anticipation for the much-anticipated final song. We see Federer mostly trying to keep his emotions in check, and only a few light-hearted, nervous moments – expressing his fear of retirement – give us a sense of what's going on in his mind.

Roger Federer: Twelve Final Days (English/Documentary)

Director: Asif Kapadia, Joe Sabia

Runtime: 127 minutes

Plot: This documentary traces the final chapter of Roger Federer's legendary tennis career

The initial part of the documentary mainly deals with how Federer suffered from multiple knee surgeries in the final days of his career and nothing more. Given that this is an account of Federer's life and career and the fact that Kapadia, a documentary expert, was at the helm of the project, we expect more depth from the product. But Kapadia doesn't go beyond the basic idea of ​​documenting the final days of the tennis legend's journey.

Federer: The Last Twelve Days The film begins with scenes of Federer's many incredible shots — jaw-dropping tweeners and incredible passing shots — as we watch him evolve from his boyish, aggressive persona to the stylish and all-round player he is. But it leaves us wanting to see how he masters these shots that made him an artistic genius.

The documentary hardly uncovers any secrets, as it does not explore the reasons behind Federer's mysterious aura. It does not question how his legendary teammates and the ever-increasing competitive field of men's tennis influenced his seeming invincibility, nor does it attempt to understand his upbeat attitude, which helped him rebuild his game and stage a remarkable comeback to become the oldest world No. 1.

Roger Federer with the Wimbledon trophy.

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

Still, Federer's thoughts on the game keep us interested even during the dull parts. Interestingly, he compares tennis to chess, says that “the battle between two players is psychological” and adds that he likes to beat his opponent at his own game.

When the story turns to the Laver Cup, we get a sense of how Federer had become a brilliant ambassador for the game, with his contemporaries and many older stars talking about his brilliance.

In the pre-tournament press conference, he talks about his first tennis hero, Bjorn Borg. When he arrived, Federer was seen as an ideal replacement for the great Pete Sampras, perhaps because of the Swiss's dominance on grass courts like the 14-time Grand Slam champion. But Federer remembers idolising the legendary Bjorn Borg, as he was impressed by his skill and stylish off-field image.

The best part of the documentary, as expected, is about Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is portrayed as a party-crazed guy, another guest in Federer's career. The Serbian had to work hard to earn his place in Federer's crazy tennis community by fixing technical flaws and adopting a never-say-die attitude. Federer admitted that he “didn't give Djokovic enough respect” during the early part of the Serbian's career.

Meanwhile, his friendship with Nadal, despite the famously intense rivalry, is a beautiful anomaly. While he maintained a formal relationship with Djokovic, Federer saw Nadal as a good friend, and that's why he officially informed Nadal of his decision to hang up his boots 10 days in advance. Their rivalry fuelled tennis and helped both players advance on the field.

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The emotional ending of the documentary, which shows the man breaking down more than once, is quite apt and not too sentimental. For those who have been following his game, it is quite overwhelming to see the important moments of his last game, how everyone gathers around him, and his farewell words to his friends and fans.

The last part of the documentary is a nostalgic experience for Federer fans, and it will surely remind them of the times when they used to wake up at odd hours to witness his effortless dominance, walk onto the court in big games, thrill to his devastating forehand or pin-point first serve, and most importantly, hear those important words from the umpire: “Game, set and match, Roger Federer!”

Federer: Twelve Final Days is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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