Zendaya’s Sexy Tennis Drama Is As Thrilling As Any Action Blockbuster


  • Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, & Mike Faist excel with sizzling chemistry & breathtaking performances.
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross provide an electrifying score that elevates the film.
  • Luca Guadagnino’s direction makes tennis matches feel like intense action sequences.

Zendaya often feels like a once-in-a-lifetime star, so it’s fitting that she kind of plays one in Luca Guadagnino’s drama Challengers, though Tashi Duncan doesn’t make it far before her tennis career is unfortunately kneecapped. Tashi’s injury doesn’t stop her from playing games, though. Zendaya is the center of the universe in Challengers, an electrifying and intoxicating film that is messy in all the right ways. Wrapped around Tashi’s finger are two boys (she certainly wouldn’t use the word “men” to describe them)— Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), fellow tennis players who follow her around like puppies when they first meet as teenagers.


Challengers is a romantic sports drama by director Luca Guadagnino. The film stars Zendaya as a retired Tennis legend who, while trying to coach her husband and lead him to victory in an upcoming Tennis match, discovers his coming opponent is her ex-lover.


  • Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, & Mike Faist give breathtaking performances with sizzling chemistry.
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’s techno score gives the film its electrifying, pulse-pounding heart.
  • Luca Guadagnino directs tennis matches like actions scenes.

Art and Patrick are known as Fire and Ice in the tennis community, but what begins as playful competition over wunderkind Tashi becomes a 13-year-long battle on and off the court brimming with sexual tension, bisexual chaos, and enough looks of scathing disdain from Zendaya to make you feel bad for the rest of your life. Guadagnino amps everything up to eleven here — Challengers is visceral and exhilarating, power dynamics shift with the force of tectonic plates, and fights in hotel alleys and college dorms are as hard-hitting as the tennis matches staged like action scenes.

Challengers Is A Full-On Sensory Experience

Guadagnino volleys us back and forth through time in Challengers, but the crux of the film is centered around a tennis match in upstate New York — the players: old friends Art and Patrick. Seated on the sidelines in a perfect bob and menacingly large sunglasses is Tashi, now Art’s wife and coach. Art is hoping for a comeback of sorts — his confidence is waning as the U.S. Open trophy proves elusive. Art’s control is no match for Patrick’s freewheeling chaos, though, and O’Connor’s character could disrupt Art’s path to victory.

Challengers flashes back and forth, to when Art, Patrick, and Tashi first met as up-and-coming athletes on the tennis circuit and through their various entanglements over the years, sometimes at breakneck speed. At first, it’s difficult to get your bearings as Guadanino moves lightning-fast between the past and present, but that’s by design. Challengers is a full-on sensory experience — athletes drip sweat on the camera. The lens lingers on bodies — hairy legs, strained shoulders, veiny hands and arms. Grunts and moans echo in the air and tennis shoes scrape across the hard surface of the court. The camera becomes the tennis ball, its perspective volleyed back and forth by Art and Patrick in furious fashion.


10 Best Tennis Movies Of All Time

Though the release of Challengers is delayed, there are other great tennis movies in various genres to get viewers excited for Zendaya’s next film.

It’s already enough to get the heart pumping, but all of this energy is multiplied tenfold by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s score, a techno tour-de-force that gives every movement on and off the court a charged-up feeling. Pulsating rave synths that sound like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” has taken too much pre-workout bounce in and out of the film as Art and Patrick play their fateful match.

Zendaya Is The Beating Heart Of Challengers

But Josh O’Connor & Mike Faist Are Formidable Opponents

Art and Patrick sit opposite each other and talk in Challengers
Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in Challengers. 

In the present day, Art seems to be a certifiable wife-guy. He just wants to hangout at home with his family and eat a burger, but if it’s up to Tashi, Art won’t be eating any carbs until after he wins the U.S. Open. It’s clear Tashi would respect her husband more if he were to buck up and admit that he wanted to quit tennis, but the pressure (coupled with the notion that Art isn’t just doing this for himself, but for Tashi’s shattered dreams, too) prevents him from being honest with his wife. This control is something Tashi thrives off of, though, which is why she both hates and loves Patrick.

[Patrick’s] showdown with Art is clearly happenstance, but it seems to be the inevitable conclusion to the years-long Cold War between the former best friends.

Patrick is a tornado, rolling into Tashi and Art’s life to disrupt it before retreating back to his beat-up Honda CRV and life on the road. He rolls up to the tournament just hoping to make enough cash for the next night at a hotel, unshowered, the check-in lady clearly offended by his mustiness. His showdown with Art is clearly happenstance, but it seems to be the inevitable conclusion to the years-long Cold War between the former best friends.



Luca Guadagnino

Release Date

April 26, 2024


, Pascal Pictures


Amazon MGM Studios


Justin Kuritzkes


, Josh O’Connor
, Mike Faist

Tashi relishes being caught in the middle and Zendaya gleefully chews up every scene she’s in. After her work in Dune: Part Two, it’s another earth-shattering turn from the young actor that proves she can command attention like few other stars working today. O’Connor is also having a great time as the sleazy Patrick, showboating in wood-lined saunas and on sun-soaked tennis courts. In Art’s meekness, Faist brings a warmth that feels less insidious than Patrick’s charm — there’s a sincerity to his performance that highlights just how different him and his former best friend are.

By the time we get to the final match between Art and Patrick, Guadagnino’s camera is tracking every movement with tactical precision. Every look — from Tashi on the sidelines and between Art and Patrick on the court — hits like a freight truck. Each serve is loaded with meaning, each volley hitting with the weight of a sucker punch. Like Tashi, Guadagnino has us wrapped around his fingers in the final moments of the film, bringing us to invigorating climax with ease. It’s dramatic storytelling with blockbuster-levels of energy, a triumph for Guadagnino, and a new all-time great sports movie where the games off the court are just as hot as they are on it.

Challengers opens in theaters on April 26. The film is 131 minutes long and rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.

Source link

Leave a Reply