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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

“Tennis Isn’t Just a Game—It’s a Relationship”

“Challengers” is power-hungry, passion-filled and near perfect

Considering taking up a new sport? I wasn’t until I watched “Challengers.” This steamy sports romance is filled with tension, tennis and an overwhelming amount of techno. As two young athletes fall head over heels for tennis star Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), it becomes unclear where the trio’s hatred begins and their interest in each other ends.

Audiences enter the film at the sunny 2006 US Juniors Open, watching flirtatious best friends Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor) and Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) win the Boys Juniors’ Doubles title at age 18. They get caught gaping over the talented and beautiful Tashi and quickly become acquainted. After both boys seem to literally beg for her number — and more —the ongoing and never-ending competition for her begins.

However, this isn’t your typical love triangle. Viewers don’t watch as two characters fall helplessly for the same person (though it may appear so). As the knotted ball of yarn that is the timeline of Tashi, Patrick and Art’s lives unravels, we get to follow their paths as they become increasingly tangled up in each other’s lives.

Known for his heart-crushing work on “Call Me by Your Name,” Luca Guadagnino has certainly maintained his highly honorable reputation. And his incredible work wasn’t overlooked by those involved in the film.

In an article by Indiewire, actress Zendaya expressed how impressive Guadagnino is,I’m still blown away when I watch people like Luca: There are five people coming up to you, asking you, ‘This or that?’ or ‘What’s next?’ and he has to have an answer,” said Zendaya.

The cameras in this movie were selective and extremely purposeful in their filming, from the calm close-up shots in Art and Tashi’s hotel to the sharp-angled and fast-paced movements on the tennis court. 

Guadagnino explains how essential this cinematography was to the making of the movie, “With the intimacy of their relationship, the entanglement of these three characters, and their psychology: that energy, that intimacy had to be brought onto the tennis court, and the camera had to witness that intimacy,” said Guadagnino in the Indiewire article.

Sophomore Sophie Cappozi thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the film, “I really liked the different angles they showed during the tennis matches. You could see the players from underneath the court or from a GoPro perspective, which was cool,” explained Capozzi.

Early on in the movie, Tashi explains to the boys that “Tennis isn’t just a game—it’s a relationship.” She recalls the feeling of not just playing competitive tennis but playing good tennis. “For about fifteen seconds there, it was like we were in love,” she said passionately. And this is something that director Guadagnino captured perfectly. “Challengers” has turned the sport of tennis into what appears as a theatrical production.

On and off the court, Tashi, Art, and Patrick have created somewhat of a performance for each other. Sideways glances, deep discussions, playful hand swipes, crooked smirks, and informing serves fill the movie. Throughout the film’s timeline, viewers are sent back and forth between the 2019 Rochelle’s challengers match—where Art and Patrick are competing against each other for the first time in 13 years—to the particular moments beginning in 2006 leading all the way up to the Rochelle’s challengers match.

Perhaps the only purposefully overlooked aspect in this film is the relationship between Art and Patrick. The amount of connection between these two characters can practically be felt through the screen. Although they only share one on-screen kiss, along with a soul-crushing hug that ends the film, the intense attraction between the two is clearly portrayed throughout their match.

However, the hits weren’t the only thing backhanded in this movie. Tashi is moody and restless, Art is drained and is basically Tashis’s doormat, and Patrick can’t wait to stir the pot.

Alongside the genius cinematics and talented acting, how else do you portray these complicated dynamics? Techno. As repetitive, upbeat and ominous sounds play, viewers watch Patrick Zweig, face dripping in sweat as he raises his arms into a life-altering serve. It’s hard to believe any music could fit this scene better.

For Tashi, tennis is the only acceptable topic at the dinner table. She has an overwhelming amount of stored and unusable talent. Tennis is her soulmate. But after a career-ending injury, her dreams of becoming a star tennis player are crushed. So Tashi decides to channel her power into the next best thing and make her husband, Art, a grand slam champion.

But no matter who audiences think should end up with whom, it is clear that “Challengers” was able to hold their attention. It’s thrillingly interesting and beautifully cinematic. And after all, who doesn’t want to watch Zendaya on the edge of her seat as her ex-boyfriend (Zweig) and husband (Donaldson) play to win each other over?

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About the Contributor
Kepler Orton
Kepler Orton, Staff Writer

In her free time, Kepler enjoys wandering the halls of bookstores and trying (and failing) to teach herself how to play the guitar. If you can’t find her, simply follow the trail of yarn scraps and the scent of chlorine as she spends all her time at the pool playing water polo, and most of her time at home crafting. She is an avid tote bag hoarder, todo list maker, and music lover. Kepler can also be found in Summit's orchestra playing (mostly) all the right notes on her violin. She’s a sophomore, and as it’s her first year on the Pinnacle, she is excited to expand her skills as a writer.


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