Here's Exactly How "Challengers" Made Those Tennis Matches So Intense And Realistic

There are obviously spoilers ahead for Challengers!

If you've been on the internet the last few days, then you know there is a new buzzy movie everyone is talking about: Challengers.

Zendaya as Tashi in Challengers
MGM / Warner Bros / Via

Directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by Justin Kuritzkes, Challengers follows Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), a former tennis prodigy turned coach, who turns her husband Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) into a champion. However, to overcome a losing streak, he must face his ex-best friend Patrick Zweig (Josh O'Connor), who is also Tashi's ex-boyfriend.

Tashi intensely watching a match in Challengers
MGM / Warner Bros / Via

The film has received critical acclaim, and it dominated the box office last weekend, bringing in $15 million at the US box office, which is a huge achievement for a Luca Guadagnino film.

Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor in Challengers
MGM / Warner Bros / Via

Of course, one of the standout draws for Challengers is the chemistry and charisma between Zendaya, Mike, and Josh, who are mesmerizing on screen together.

Art, Tashi, and Patrick sitting on a bed close together in Challengers
MGM / Everett Collection

While the sexiness of Challengers is what a lot of people were focusing on pre-release, after people have seen the movie, a lot of the chatter also lies on how the film pulled off the incredible tennis moments.

Zendaya in Challengers
MGM / Everett Collection

When you are in the movie theater watching Art and Patrick go head-to-head at the Challenger in New Rochelle, it is performed, filmed, and written so well that people are actually on the edges of their seats.

Screenshot from "Challengers"

So, considering Zendaya, Mike, and Josh are not professional tennis players IRL, it's actually pretty incredible to hear how the movie made them into tennis stars.

Mike Faist, Zendaya, and Josh O'Connor at a red carpet event for Challengers
Brendon Thorne / Getty Images

First, Challengers enlisted the help of former tennis player and current coach Brad Gilbert, who was the tennis coach on the film. He trained the three stars, but also literally choreographed those incredible games.

Brad Gilbert with cap and lanyard standing in a crowded area
Tim Clayton / Corbis / Getty Images

In terms of training, Zendaya, Mike, and Josh worked for three months, which included training for six weeks at a country club outside of Boston right before filming began. It was there that Brad and his wife, Kim Gilbert, coached the trio. Each one had their own court they would practice on so they could work on each of their character's individual tennis styles.

Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor in "Challengers"

This required the actors to leave Boston at 6 a.m. to travel to the suburbs where they were practicing every day during this period.

Niko Tavernise / MGM / Everett Collection

Prior to arriving in Boston, Brad also trained with Zendaya for a couple of months in LA. She worked with a trainer and then worked on technique, namely copying techniques of real tennis players. "She really worked a ton on her forehand swing and her backhand swing," Brad explained to GQ.

Scenes of Zendaya as Tashi playing tennis in Challengers

Meanwhile, Mike had played tennis in high school, but he had to re-train himself because Art's "game was crafted around a [Pete] Sampras or a [Roger] Federer," aka a classic style with a one-handed backhand. Whereas Mike played with a two-handed backhand.

Scenes of Mike Faist as Art playing tennis in Challengers

As for Josh, he had no prior tennis training, but Brad called him "very athletic already" when he arrived to set. He added, "[Josh] hadn't played, and we had to get him up to speed, and then they wanted him to lean down. Besides two hours on the court, he had to go right to the gym."

Josh O'Connor as Patrick playing tennis in Challengers
MGM / Warner Bros / Via

When it came to actually filming the matches in Challengers, Brad choreographed how each point would go. While screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes's script had "all the directions" for how each point would go, it was Brad's job to "write out each point."

Mike Faist in "Challengers"
MGM / Warner Bros / Via

Brad explained to GQ, "So I needed to write out each point, like a play-by-play. Something like, 'This is a seven-ball rally, forehand to forehand,' and so on. And then, once you're actually filming the seven-ball rally, you've got to do the same seven-ball rally over every single time until you get it right."

A close-up of Patrick's face and Art's legs while playing a match in Challengers

Luca also had input on how each point would look, too.

MGM / Warner Bros / Via

Zendaya explained that she used her dance background to treat the tennis moves like dance choreography. She added, "I tried to mirror [my tennis double] as much as I could and get the form." Each actor had a tennis double they all grew very close to, according to Brad.

Zendaya mimicking her tennis double on the set of Challengers
Zendaya mimicking her tennis double on the set of Challengers
Zendaya mimicking her tennis double on the set of Challengers
Zendaya mimicking her tennis double on the set of Challengers

Zendaya / Instagram / Via

On the day of shooting, in order for the tennis matches to look as professional and realistic as possible, the actors were only holding the racket's handle. They were able to swing with the intensity that professional tennis players exhibit, and then the ball and head of the racket were added in later using CGI.

Close-ups of Tashi and Patrick playing tennis in Challengers

Then, in order to make it feel like viewers were actually on the court with the players, it involved a lot of old-school film tricks, including having the filmmakers themselves on the court. Like when Art leaps over the net, Luca is lying on the ground near the net, filming while looking up at him.

Luca Guadagnino on the set of Challengers

All of their work has paid off as audiences are impressed with the tennis in the movie, including Coco Gauff, who is actually coached by Challengers tennis coach Brad Gilbert.

Brad Gilbert standing on a tennis court with Coco Gauff

In an Instagram Live after leaving Challengers, Coco talked about the tennis in the movie, saying, "The tennis actually wasn't bad in the movie. There is a CGI ball, but the actual strokes and stuff were actually pretty damn [accurate]."

Zendaya as Tashi in Challengers

Although she liked the movie, Coco did add, "There are some things that weren't 100% accurately correct. I don't know why they gave my dude [Patrick] a time violation in between first and second serves. You wouldn't normally get a time violation for that. That was wrong. Everything else was accurate."

Coco Gauff celebrating a point on the court
Elsa / Getty Images

Well, there you have it. Challengers was equal parts intense training and tennis knowledge coupled with a few movie tricks.

Zendaya in "Challengers"
MGM / Everett Collection

What did you think of Challengers? Tell us in the comments below!