Zendaya Serves Up The Drama in ‘Challengers’

Zendaya plays Tashi Duncan in the tennis movie Challengers .

Since the initial confirmation of Challengers being in the works to finally debut in theaters, there has been one thing on everyone’s mind: Zendaya. Although we’ve seen her in a variety of roles, series, and films since her early Disney days, this is her first leading role in a more provocative film. Not only has this sexy tennis drama captivated fans’ and critics’ attention, but it scored majorly at the box office opening weekend with $15 million in sales. As someone who doesn’t play tennis, this film definitely itched my competitive nature to possibly take up the sport.

I was very pleased by Zendaya’s mature and alluring performance in Challengers. In the leading promo for this film, even the music was strategic as they were hinting that she would be playing a “man-eater” role, which is a new light for fans to witness Zendaya in. However, she deserves more leading roles after the success of this film and the level of dedication she displayed throughout tennis training, research, and truly embodying the character of Tashi Duncan. Despite my lack of interest in going to physical theaters since the rise of streaming platforms, this was a unique and rare opportunity that I didn’t want to miss to show my support. “Ticket sales from large format screens, including IMAX, made up about 40% of the opening weekend grosses. According to a PostTrak exit poll reported by Deadline, 55% of audiences said they went to see the film because of Zendaya. In fact, this weekend, Zendaya movies accounted for around 26% of the overall box office with the re-release of Dune: Part Two  in IMAX, which made nearly $2 million,” according to the Associated Press.

Tashi finds herself in a love triangle.


Zendaya was depicted as a balance of a “femme fatale” and a strong athletic competitor who had a driven idea of how she wanted her career to be. In the midst of all this, she was balancing an intense and deep love triangle of two athletes who have been competing for her love throughout the years. It’s truly a film based on pushing through adversity and the setback of dreams being lost, navigating love and what it takes to truly maintain healthy relationships, and why winning isn’t always so important – but it’s the journey of happiness and continuing anything that reminds you of your true self. There were a few mildly X-rated scenes that Zendaya and co-stars Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor shared, but they were done tastefully as she wasn’t uncovered entirely throughout the scenes.

Also, this film provides another opportunity for fans to learn more about tennis and the true depths of success and fallback that can happen. Furthermore, this can connect with tennis players on another level who may have had similar experiences or are struggling with certain life lessons that the sport has taught them. Overall, the film deserved a 4 out of 5 star review, which definitely matches the continuing success of its debut.

Zendaya completely dominated Challengers and this won’t be the last that we’ll be seeing of her.


By Kori Barnes, University of Southern California

Instagram: @korixnicole


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Written by Kori Barnes

Hi! I can eat an entire jar of pickles in one setting and I LOVE to binge watch shows on Netflix. One of the most important quotes to me:
“and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

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