Secrets behind Roger Federer’s Twelve Final Days movie uncovered in Tennis365 exclusive

Kevin Palmer

Roger Federer ensured his family were kept out of the spotlight over the course of his remarkable career, with his wife Mirka never giving interviews and his private life very much locked away from public sight despite his status as a global superstar.

So when the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his inner circle decided to allow cameras into their lives for the compelling Amazon documentary Twelve Days, fans were given the kind of insight they had never seen before.

Initially conceived as a home video for the Federer family, Twelve Final Days captures the tennis star at his most vulnerable and candid self as he says goodbye to a game and the fans that have shaped his life for the last two decades.

Featuring exclusive interviews with the people closest to Federer and a rare interview with his wife Mirka, Twelve Final Days looks back at the final moments of a glorious tennis career that came to an end with an emotional farewell for Federer at the 2022 Laver Cup in London.

Here, in the second part of an exclusive interview with Tennis365, Twelve Final Days co-director Joe Sabia gives us the inside story of how he managed to get Federer’s wife Mirka to speak on camera, as he gives us an insight into the man behind the tennis legend.

How did you persuade Mirka Federer to speak on camera?

JS: That was actually the first day of filming. We had just filmed Roger reading the draft of the retirement announcement that he was going to make the next day and his kids just arrived. Mirka was there and I think that there was an understanding that because we were making a home video, why don’t we just have Mirka sit down in front of camera, even though no one is ever going to see it.

Were you surprised by the emotion she showed in your interview?

JS: I asked some mundane questions about what it meant to see Roger go through retirement and I think the emotion got to her. It says so much that she became so emotional for a home video that was never going to see the light of day. It showed you what the atmosphere was like, not just for Roger, but for the people close to him to know that it’s all way this way of life. This entire lifestyle of Mirka going to every match and supporting him. You know, they did this as a family and Roger never did this alone. You really feel that in the way that she cares for him and cries with him not, you know, not separately. It just feels like there’s such a unity to them going through this and their experience.

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Did the Federer team ask you to take anything out of the film?

JS: Not really. What you need to remember here is no one wanted a life documentary. This was never trying to be The Last Dance or the Beckham doc. This is just a very pure and in the moment portrait of what happens when an athlete goes through retirement. The saying goes all athletes die twice. So there’s a lot of those themes in here. But I don’t think there’s anything specifically that the two of them are like, please take that out at all. But and then again, this doc was not trying to excavate an entire career. I think it gets more complicated when a film tries to do that.

What is Federer like when the cameras are turned off?

JS: What you see is what you get with Roger. The only thing that I can offer as hints or evidence of what this man is like towards people when there are no cameras or when they’re not athletes competing against him is when you meet him. And the first time I met him, he gave me a bear hug. I’m like, wow that is extremely warm and disarming and comforting that he’s that he’s willing to let the guy last to interview him know that that everything’s gonna be all right. He’s here to have some fun. 

Have you socialised with Federer and his family?

JS: Yes. He was nice enough to invite me with his close circle to kind of just have some cocktails at night and it was my birthday. He’s like, Happy Birthday like, I’m going to talk to you for 20 minutes as my family is right there. I’m going to ask about your wife and how she’s doing. He has a lack of a lack of self-centred focus and I think you see that in the way that he carries himself, especially with his rivals.

Roger Federer: Twelve Final Days is available on Amazon Prime now.