TENNIS is pretty hot right now — especially following the 2024 Australian Open. But you know what’s even hotter than the actual ATP? Luca Guadagnino’s new film, Challengers, which dropped a particularly new steamy trailer today.
A Guadagnino-fied imagination of the cut-throat and (apparently?) sexy world of tennis, Challengers is an upcoming psych-drama starring Zendaya as a fictional tennis prodigy turned pro Tashi Duncan. Josh O’Connor of The Crown and Mike Faist of West Side Story also star as two aspiring players in awe of Tashi’s natural talent and achievements.
Fast forward, and Tashi gets caught in the middle of a love triangle with Art (Faist) and Patrick (O’Connor). After engaging in a mènage á trios of sorts one evening, as seen in the trailer soundtracked to none other than Rihanna’s “S&M”, Tashi — the ultimate player — begins to date the ever-so cheeky Patrick before later marrying the compassionate Art, after he takes care of her during a devastating career-ending injury.
Fast-forward several years and the trio have disbanded, with Tash now acting as her husband’s coach, having transformed Art into the Grand Slam Champion she was meant to be. But after Art falls into a professional rut, suddenly losing his confidence and with it, each game, Tashi decides to initiate a Challenger event with the hope of re-starting his smash streak. For those not quite au fait with tennis, a Challenger tour is on the lower end of the pro tournament tour. And guess who Art goes racquet-to-racquet with? None other than his ex-friend, who used to date his wife — the now disillusioned Patrick. Um-ahh.
As if this film couldn’t get any further up our alley, the costumes are designed by Jonathan Anderson, the creative director of Loewe and his namesake brand, J.W. Anderson. Those familiar with Anderson’s work will notice a couple of links at play here. O’Conner has been a Loewe muse for a couple of years now, while Luca Guadagnino has sat in the f-row at just about every Loewe show in recent memory.
Early last year, Anderson confirmed his “dream” role of helming the costume department of Guadagnino’s latest film — with Zendaya seen just a few months later wearing what looked like Challengers merch. After the trailer was released on June 20, the creative director posted to Instagram, saying how “proud” he was to be part of the star-studded new feature.
“So so so proud to have done the costumes for my dear friend #lucaguadagnino new film #Challengers with the amazing @zendaya @joshographee #mikefaist massive thank you to the whole team that helped me pull it off,” he wrote beneath three tantalising film stills.
Of course, Guadagnino is no stranger to working with renowned designers. The critically-acclaimed director, whose most recent work was last year’s cannibalism romance Bones & All, starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, has previously tapped Raf Simons to provide Tilda Swinton’s costumes for 2010’s I Am Love and then A Bigger Splash in 2016. He also called on Valentino Haute Couture to dress Julianne Moore and Mia Goth in his 2019 short The Staggering Girl.
Also present in the Challengers trailer is tennis kit from Uniqlo, the Japanese fashion giant J.W. Anderson regularly collaborates with. Rodger Federer, meanwhile, is also famously sponsored by Uniqlo. Without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, could this mean a Federer x Anderson team up is set to hit the shelves of our favourite puffer jacket retailer?
Theories aside, Challengers will hit Australian cinemas on April 24. Fun fact: Zendaya even trained for three months to be in tip, top tennis shape for the film. “She’s wonderful,” Guadagnino told Variety last year. “I mean, wow. We edited the movie and we almost actually don’t use any of her double. She’s so good.” Why are we not surprised?