FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS – Review by Diane Carson

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Federer: Twelve Final Days honors tennis legend Roger Federer

Granted exclusive, private access, directors Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia shot the documentary Federer: Twelve Final Days never intending a public viewing. Thankfully, via Amazon Prime Video, tennis fans can joyfully share Federer’s expertise and the regret that his phenomenal competitive career has ended. For those not into sports, Federer is Roger Federer, tennis phenomenon for over twenty-four years.

At the age of forty-one, after four knee surgeries, Roger knew it was time to retire after over fifteen hundred matches and twenty Grand Slam men’s singles titles, the first male player winning over fourteen Grand Slams, eight at Wimbledon. In addition, Roger holds numerous other titles and records. But beyond those statistics, the wonder and sheer pleasure watching him on clay, grass, and hard surface courts surpassed all expectations.

As the title indicates, this film counts down the last twelve days leading up to Roger’s playing doubles with his sometime fierce opponent and always dearest friend Rafa Nadal in the Laver Cup, which Federer started as a tribute to the great Rod Laver. Roger’s earliest tennis days, notable matches, and his last one are woven seamlessly through this tribute. Excerpts from interviews and candid family footage add depth and breadth, Roger always positive, honest, engaging, and, well, unsurpassed.

Federer describes facing a worthy opponent such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray across the net as “very much a chess match.” John McEnroe says, “On the tennis court, he’s a Baryshnikov,” describing Roger’s balletic grace amidst supreme physical agility and effort, making it all look effortless. Rod Laver adds, “He’s an artist on the court.” Or as Rafa asserts, “We’ll never see another player with that flow, that perfection, that elegance.”

Full disclosure, I am a tennis fanatic and have watched Federer play both in person and on television hours on end. Over decades, his athleticism and elegance inspired and astonished me. His treatment of competitors as well as the line judges and ball handlers has, in every instance, qualified as the most considerate I’ve ever seen. This includes many off-camera moments I witnessed personally in which Federer exhibited his first-rate character.

As the documentary concludes with Roger, his family, Rafa, and the crowd in tears, so was I. I admire and love Rafa, but Roger is in a category all his own however many other records are set, matches and trophies won. There is only one Roger Federer. He said goodbye with, “And to the game of tennis, I love you, I will never leave you.” Federer: Twelve Final Days streams on Amazon Prime Video.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.