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“Challengers” showcases passion for tennis on, off court

The+tennis+drama+%E2%80%9CChallengers%2C%E2%80%9D+starring+Zendaya%2C+marks+her+first+movie+as+a+lead+role.+The+film+debuted+April+26+and+reached+the+top+of+the+U.K.+box+office+charts+within+its+first+weekend%2C+according+to+Screen+Daily.
Isabella Gibson
The tennis drama “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, marks her first movie as a lead role. The film debuted April 26 and reached the top of the U.K. box office charts within its first weekend, according to Screen Daily.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, “Challengers” is a newly released film starring Zendaya as Tashi Duncan, a promising young tennis star. The movie follows Duncan as she grapples with the expectations of fame and her blossoming love affair with two fellow players, Art Donaldson, played by Mike Faist, and Patrick Zweig, played by Josh O’Connor.

The film begins with an electrifying doubles match, where Donaldson and Zweig catch sight of the talented Duncan. This scene marks the starting point of their love triangle, which slowly unfolds throughout the film.

When they were younger, Donaldson and Zweig battled to win Duncan over, ultimately leading to an unexpected romance between Zweig and Duncan. However, tensions arose after Donaldson schemed behind Zweig’s back to win over Duncan. After Duncan’s career-ending injury during a match at Stanford, she and Zweig have a falling out, ending their relationship. Donaldson takes this opportunity to form a relationship with Duncan by supporting her during her recovery. Not only does this result in their marriage, but Duncan also becomes Donaldson’s coach.

The love triangle resurfaces later in the movie when Zweig, now a Grand Slam champion, faces off against Donaldson, a washed-up player, in the finals of a Challenger tournament.

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While “Challengers” may seem like any typical sports drama, the movie delves into the passion of sport combined with young love and rivalries. By the end of the movie, it becomes clear that the players are competing for far more than a trophy.

Additionally, Director Guadagnino uses varying camera angles to reflect the characters’ evolving relationships. One of the movie’s final scenes is shot from the point of view of the ball. Earlier in the movie, Duncan described tennis as a relationship between the players; the cinematography speaks to this very fact, with the back-and-forth movement of the ball acting as dialogue between Zweig and Donaldson.

Guadagnino also meticulously utilizes color to connect the relationships of the characters on and off the court. Similar to his successful movie “Call Me by Your Name,” “Challengers” uses bright youthful colors in an ironic way to conceal the dark and twisted nature of the love triangle. Furthermore, the consistent color scheme as the film switches from past to present underscores the characters’ enduring passion and youth.

When leaving the cinema, the ending felt as though it lacked resolution. The film concludes with a gripping moment during the tiebreaker portion of the match. However, the tennis point shown is not the final one scored in the game.

Upon reflection, it becomes clear that the final point represents the larger theme of tennis serving as a relationship between players. As Duncan had explained to the two boys earlier in the film, tennis embodies a connection in which, during the game, the two players understand each other perfectly.

The last point in the match between Donaldson and Zweig proves Duncan’s insight, revealing to the audience that this scene was what Duncan was in search of the entire movie. Zendaya perfectly portrays Duncan as a passionate tennis lover who masterminded their whole relationship to see a good game of tennis.

While the ending of “Challengers” may initially be difficult to understand, it ultimately emerges as a masterful representation of the intersection between sports rivalries and love triangles. The chemistry between the cast members keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, making it a definite addition to anyone’s must-watch list.

This story was originally published on The Standard on May 3, 2024.