Roger Federer Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Screenshot

For most of us, we can stay in our profession for several decades before retirement. For professional athletes, their careers don’t last that long. If they’re lucky, they might get two decades of playing sports for a living. If they’re unlucky, maybe a few years. Sometimes it’s even shorter.

Pros who have spent their entire lives crafting a singular skill face the great unknown. What do they do with the rest of their lives? There’s a jarring finality that a person with a regular job can’t even begin to contemplate.

Loss of career. Loss of identity and sense of self.

Federer: Twelve Final Days attempts to give fans an inside peak of the last 12 days of Roger Federer’s 24-year career. Like most athletes, his retirement coincided with his body breaking down. Few leave the sport they love willingly, no matter how old they are. You get the indication from this Prime Video Sports documentary that Federer would still be out there if he were reasonably healthy and competitive.

When Federer called it quits in September 2022 at 41, he cited knee injuries. His body forced him to stop. With 20 career Grand Slams, Federer remains on the Mount Rushmore of men’s tennis. He’s third all-time in major titles, trailing only Novak Djokovic (24) and Rafael Nadal (22). Nobody has won Wimbledon, the sport’s most prestigious championship, more times than his eight victories.

Federer’s final appearance was during the Laver Cup when he teamed up for a doubles match with Nadal, his longtime friend/rival. Directors Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia craft a 90-minute documentary from interviews with Federer, his wife Mirka, and other players. Included are also home videos from his childhood to days before announcing he was done.

The documentary begins with Federer in front of a microphone with an impressive trophy case behind him as he prepares to say farewell. He looks up to the camera before reading a prepared statement that will be released to the public the following day. and says: “I feel like I’m ready to start and get it behind.” After he’s done, he says “Sometimes we the players don’t like that retirement word. It feels so (like) the complete end of everything, of your whole tennis career. OK. That’s it. The line is drawn and now you’re a completely different person and every day is going to be different. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t like that in the letter. And I think we were able to achieve that.”

Like many athletes, he wanted to control the message of his retirement. But even when the Swiss star learns the news has been leaked, he is at peace. His agent reminds him there has been speculation about Federer’s retirement since 2009. The documentary shows Federer as being introspective. He thinks out loud about reconnecting with the tennis community and giving the fans and himself a moment to say goodbye.

London, the site of Wimbledon, is where Federer had his greatest triumphs. So, he purposefully chose to have his final match at the 2022 Laver Cup. Throughout Twelve Final Days, Federer is a thoughtful interview. What stands out the most is his relationship with Nadal. The two have a love and respect for each other built over years of competition.

Twelve Final Days feels like it was made for a specific audience. Most hardcore tennis enthusiasts will enjoy it. But for the casual sports fan, it seems like something is missing. Kapadia, the director of the Oscar-winning Amy Winehouse documentary Amy, and Sabia could have taken a bigger swing at their subject. Maybe that was all Federer was willing to give. He comes across as guarded and unwilling to let the public fully inside. A few more anecdotes about Federer the person as opposed to Federer the athlete would have been helpful here.

Great athletes don’t need to reveal much of themselves. Their greatness is usually enough. But a great documentary requires more. The press release for Twelve Final Days says it was originally a home video that was “never intended for public viewing.”

You’re left wondering what, if anything, was left out.

Federer: Twelve Final Days will debut in select theatres on June 13 and will be available to stream on Prime Video on June 20.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.