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Okay, But Is 'Challengers' Low-Key Based On A True Story?

The steamy tennis movie of the century has arrived, and it’s safe to say we’re all obsessed and signing up for tennis lessons and Hinge right now. Challengers is the high-art sports film I didn’t know I needed. The thumping techno music! The intense love triangle tension! The wildly unexpected twists and turns! If you weren’t already a Zendaya stan from Shake It UpSpider-ManDune, or Euphoria, you surely are now. She really flexes her acting chops in this complicated tennis star-turned coach role.

Literally put this woman in the US Open right now. Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor too. These three are so ridiculously good at portraying tennis players that the movie feels like watching real tennis matches at times. (I would know ’cause I’m a huuuuge sports lover and never miss a tennis event, obviously.) While watching Challengers and absorbing the more realistic aspects, you find yourself wondering: Wait, is this based on a true story? Who were the characters inspired by? Valid questions indeed. Let’s unpack them.

Is Challengers Based On A True Story?


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No… but kind of. During an interview with, screenwriter Justin Kuristzkes revealed that he got the idea for the film after watching a real tennis match. “I was watching the US Open in 2018 and it was the final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams,” he recalled. “And there was this really controversial call towards the end of the match where Serena Williams was penalized for receiving coaching from the sidelines.”

Justin added, “And she got very upset and said that didn’t happen. But the ref still penalized her. And I had never heard of that rule – that you’re not allowed to speak with your coach during the match. And immediately it struck me as really cinematic.” So no, he did not write the movie about a real-life tennis love triangle. Tashi, Patrick, and Art are just stellar fiction.

Zendaya Did Pay Homage To Venus And Serena Williams At The Challengers Los Angeles Premiere


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Although Tashi is not based on Venus or Serena Williams (I’d certainly hope not), Zendaya did pay homage to the legendary tennis star sisters with an epic fashion choice. At the Challengers Los Angeles premiere, she stunned in a square-neck Carolina Herrera gown with wide black and white stripes, and wore her hair in beaded braids. The look was a recreation of the Williams sisters’ matching Herrera dresses for their 1998 Vogue photoshoot. That’s my Met Gala co-chair queen!

Serena Williams Shared Her Thoughts On Challengers

Zendaya told Entertainment Tonight what Serena thought about the movie. “She was like, ‘I know there definitely weren’t real [tennis] balls,’” the actress dished. “She knows. She’s the best of the best.” Of course, Serena was also super impressed with the former Disney star’s impeccable performance. “She did say that it was great considering that I had never, never touched a tennis ball before,” Zendaya added. An actress, a pop star, a dancer, and now an athlete. Slay.

Ilana Frost
Ilana Frost
Ilana Frost is an entertainment writer at Betches. As a teenage girl in her twenties, she spends her time stanning Olivia Rodrigo, baking cakes for award shows, and refusing to ever leave her Reputation era.