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I Watched ‘Challengers’ and You Need to As Well

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

When I first watched the promo for Challengers and saw Zendaya playing tennis, I was instantly ready to be planted in that movie theater. Then, I found out that it was Zendaya playing tennis AND manipulating men in the process…well I practically cleared my calendar for the entire months of April and May!

watch ‘Challengers‘ trailer above

Challengers, the latest Sports Drama to grace our screens, was released in theaters on April 22 of this year and I demand you go watch it in your local cinema immediately. The film follows fictional tennis super-star Tashi Duncan, as her athletic, romantic, and academic lives become entangled by Art Donaldson and Patrick Zweig, two fellow tennis players. Zendaya spearheads the cast with Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor following close behind. This is the first time we have seen Zendaya take center stage and she steals that spotlight with full force; She is captivating as Tashi Duncan, a character brimming with social, relational, and sexual complexities that push herself and those closest to her to their limits. As the focal point of the entire film, Tashi Duncan is essentially the Cailtin Clark of the tennis world. She is a powerful young woman that dominates the court and the media circuit. She is all anyone is talking about. People are falling at her feet, especially best friends and tennis partners Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor). The duo desperately wants to garner Tashi’s attention and will do anything to get it, even if that involves decimating the other on the tennis court. Long story short, Tashi and Art become married and Patrick ends up as Tashi’s ex-boyfriend. 

The film flashes between Tashi’s married adulthood and budding teenage years as an up and coming tennis sensation. Before entering the pros, Tashi wanted to attend Stanford alongside Art to further her tennis skills and gain an education. However, Stanford is the place of her demise after she suffers an in-game knee injury that sweeps her out of the game completely. This is detrimental to her character because at her core, Tashi is tennis. Competition is like air to her and not being able to be the best, eats at her. Zendaya perfectly encapsulates Tashi’s spirit. She emulates the growing angst that is intertwined with Tashi’s love for Art, Patrick, and most of all: tennis. Zendaya does such a phenomenal job conveying the character that I couldn’t even hate Tashi when she was sacrificing everything, including the wellbeing of those closest to her, because she desperately needed to be the best. Through all her bad decisions, it’s apparent that she cannot help it because her love for the game is overpowering. Her devotion (and Zendaya’s performance) is intoxicating. 

After coming to terms with the fact she will not play again, Tashi becomes Art’s coach and boasts him to the professional level (something his mediocre talent could not do by himself). The plot spins around a single match. Art has been losing professional matches and Tashi puts him in a challenger game, one of the lowest games in the pro circuit, in order to regain his confidence. However, his opponent is more than he bargained for. 
Challengers is brimming with incredible acting, a necessity, as the characters propel the plot forward. However, you will also catch some artsy cinematography paired with eye-catching set design. How could I forget the clothes? I immediately began to vainly hunt for tennis bracelets and creme blouses after seeing Zendaya sashay across the silver screen for 2 and a half hours. What I wouldn’t give to have the iconic “I TOLD YA” shirt, is a very short list. All in all, go see Challengers, and if not for tennis, then go for Zendaya. If not for Zendaya, then you really need to get your priorities in line. After watching the movie, I’ve decided that Challengers was made for people who support women’s rights and women’s wrongs.

Sam is a first-year Economics Major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She is currently involved in Her Campus as an editorial writer and a part of other Cal Poly clubs such as Investing and Waterski. Sam loves traveling, The Princess Diaries, strawberries, reading, and winning at card games. If she's not making a new Spotify playlist, you'll catch her working out or hanging out with friends!