Wait, Who Won the Tennis Match in ‘Challengers’?

Wait, Who Won the Tennis Match in ‘Challengers’?MGM

When I left the theater where I saw Challengers on Thursday night, two things were on my mind (and exactly forty-two questions, but I already wrote that story). First, the fact that there wasn’t any sex in this movie after all, which Zendaya explained rather batshittily: “We keep saying tennis is the sex in the movie, and I think tennis holds a metaphor for a lot of things: desires, passion, pain, anger, frustration.” Tennis ain’t sex, Z!

My second thought is pretty important: Who won the damn match?!?

If we watched the same movie, you’ll know that it hinges entirely on a battle between two ex-best friends: Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor). The former is married to Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), a former tennis star (she bowed out of the sport after an injury) who now serves as his coach. The latter used to date her. Throughout the film, there’s a ton of beefing, cheating, and presumably off-camera fucking, but the gist is this: If Patrick wins the New Rochelle tournament, he squirms his way into the top 100 of the ATP Rankings, which will nab him automatic entry to Grand Slam events. Meanwhile, Tashi says she’ll leave Art if he loses to Patrick. How kind!

Tashi’s “little white boys” each snag a set (winning two sets secures the match) and land themselves in a tiebreaker for the third. In tennis tiebreakers, seven points scores you the dub—and you have to win by two. Before they duel for the first point, Patrick lands a devastating blow: He places the ball in the middle of his racket, which—between these two weirdos—is the “I Boned Tashi” signal. This, apparently, is the thing that finally grows Art’s peen by a few inches, and he finally gets his swagger back. The two volley for a bit, director Luca Guadagnino breaks out so many camera tricks that you nearly hurl your Skittles, and they eventually meet at the net. In some gladiatorial fit of glory, Art launches the ball into the air and spikes it at Patrick, falling over the net in the process. They embrace. Tashi cheers like a woman who forgot that this match determines her daughter’s future. And...the credits roll.

As Art says, “This game is about winning the points that matter,” and, um—this point really matters. Like, I-won’t-have-Zendaya-cuddling-me-to-sleep-every-night matters. So! I took to the International Tennis Federation rule book in search of the official™ word on the whole net-touching thing.

Challengers gives Applebee’s its best moment since 1997. MGM

Per section 24-g (I’ve always wanted to say that):

“The player or the racket, whether in the player’s hand or not, or anything which the player is wearing or carrying touches the net, net posts/singles sticks, cord or metal cable, strap or band, or the opponent’s court at any time while the ball is in play.”

There’s also this bit, same section, which is a little more explicit:

“Case 5. Is a player allowed to jump over the net into the opponent’s court while the ball is in play? Decision. No. The player loses the point.”

There you go: Art loses the first of seven points and we never see how the rest of the match plays out. We can safely say that Patrick has a teensy advantage when Challengers ends, so you can fill in the blanks however you’d like. Want to imagine a future where Patrick Zweig hits ATP No. 1 and (as Tashi would say) decimates that little bitch Alcaraz at every Grand Slam event? Go for it! You’d rather see Art win, recommit to Tashi, and live a picket-fenced life at the Four Seasons hotels across the globe? A little too wholesome for this movie, but sure.

My take? Glad you asked. They all meet back at Applebee’s, à la Talladega Nights, and—after a few rounds of dollar margs—finish that threesome they started all those years ago.

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