“Sports people die twice,” says a voice in the new documentary “Federer: Twelve Final Days,” which premiered Monday night at the Tribeca Film Festival.

movie review


Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (some language). On Prime Video June 20.

For fans of tennis, superstar Roger Federer’s 2022 retirement at age 41 certainly unleashed a tidal wave of mourning.

The Swiss ace — renowned for his graceful movement, easy power and class — dominated courts around the world for more than two decades.

So, when the 20-time grand slam winner put down his racket for good, the mood wasn’t so much the changing of the guard as the death of the king. For many, Roger Federer was tennis.

“It’s been a wild journey,” Federer told the audience at the SVA Theater in Chelsea. “Twenty-five years of tennis and I’m still standing.”

The former World No. 1 added that he originally hired the filmmakers to simply shoot a personal archive of that eventful time as a memento for his family.

“It was supposed to be for the vault, for my children one day, for my children’s children,” Federer said onstage. “I always try to keep private private.”

But the cagey athlete was eventually convinced to let his fans see the enlightening behind-the-scenes footage that tracks the tense days in the lead-up to his final bow at the Laver Cup in London.

“I only cried six times,” he said of the movie.

Sidelined by persistent knee injuries and botched surgeries, Federer works like mad to get in fine enough shape to make it through one last match.

Since directors Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia’s goal wasn’t journalistic, per se, the emotional result isn’t packed with bombshells or shocks. And it’s not a step-by-step biography tracking how he went from a ballboy in Basel to the GOAT.

Rather, “Twelve Final Days” is a tender, mellow film that delves inside the head of a deeply enigmatic figure as he asks the relatable and terrifying question: “What’s next?”

First, we witness Federer recording his retirement announcement for social media and calling up friends such as Vogue editor and tennis fanatic Anna Wintour to give them the heads up.

He admits he phoned his top rival, Rafael Nadal, 10 days in advance with the sad news.

It’s especially moving to see Federer’s wife Mirka and their four kids, who are refreshingly nervous around the cameras, supporting their dad through his tough transition.

“Three of the four kids cried,” he says.

The player is also helped along by the guys he once did battle with from the baseline.

Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic are dubbed “The Big Three” by the press (sometimes Andy Murray is lumped in there, too). The trio had a stranglehold on the sport for 20 years and won a staggering 66 grand slams between them.

“Twelve Final Days” also serves as an ode to that unprecedented legacy of dominance that is rapidly coming to an end.

Unintentionally making the new doc more profound were the major events that occurred in tennis over the past couple of weeks.

Nadal, 38, flamed out in the first round of the French Open in Paris — an event he’s won 14 times before.

And Djokovic, 37, who was also in peak form back then, underwent an emergency knee surgery last Wednesday for a torn meniscus — the very same injury that ended Fed’s career.

It’s the circle of life. While the legends struggle, 21-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz won his third grand slam on Sunday at the French Open.

One day later, Australian Open champ Jannik Sinner, a 22-year-old from Italy, became the new World No. 1.

They’re tennis’ future now. And the poignant takeaway from Federer’s documentary is: Enjoy it while it lasts.

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