Challengers Movie Ending Explained: The Meaning of the Final Match

By Lauren Rouse Posted:
Zendaya in Challengers

Luca Guadagnino's sports drama Challengers keeps things competitive both on and off of the court, but the film's final match has a deeper meaning for the characters.

Challengers stars Zendaya as Tashi, a young tennis prodigy poised to explode when she comes across two other burgeoning players and best friends Patrick (Josh O'Connor) and Art (Mike Faist). Over the next decade, the trio become entangled in a love triangle that sees both their relationships and careers rise and fall. 

A lot of the film's romance and drama is told through the metaphor of tennis and the film's ending has one particularly climactic match that provides a resolution to decades of tension. 

How Does Challengers End?

Challengers movie ending tennis match

When Challengers begins it's revealed that after a long and illustrious career, Art Donaldson wants to retire. So his wife and demanding coach, Tashi, submits him for a friendly "challengers" round, expecting it will boost his confidence. Only for him to come face to face with his ex-best friend (and Tashi's actual ex), Patrick. 

What is then revealed by flashbacks is the trio's complex history. Art and Patrick have competed for Tashi's affections over the years which has come at the expense of their friendship. 

In the present timeline, this translates to simmering tension - and tennis playing - on the court, which Tashi watches from the sidelines. Eventually, Patrick reveals to Art mid-game, via a long-standing inside joke between them, that he slept with Tashi the night prior.

This intensifies the match between them, culminating in Art jumping for a climactic final shot, sailing straight over the net, and ending up in Patrick's arms - which Tashi celebrates from the sidelines. 

The final score of the match is left unknown with the focus remaining on the trio's reunion after years of complicated feelings.  

Challengers' Final Tennis Match: What Does it All Mean?

Given the way the final tennis match ends, some audiences may leave Challengers feeling confused given the lack of a definitive resolution. However, if you look at the tennis match as a metaphor for the relationship between Tashi, Art, and Patrick, the resolution is clear.

Following Art learning that Patrick had recently slept with his wife, the duo battle out their emotions through vicious tennis swings and rallies, translating into a heated and close game. When it comes to the match point that sees Art lunge over the net and collide with Patrick, this can be read as the mending of their friendship, resolving a decade of tension between them. 

Guadagnino has confirmed that in the ending he was trying to represent the trio returning to a sense of balance that they once had in the hotel room when they were teenagers. The director emphasized he wanted audiences to understand "how much it meant for them not to win over the other, but to be back together, all of them."

Up until this final match, each of the characters has become unsatisfied with how their lives have panned out. Tashi and Art are married, but Tashi had to give up her tennis career due to injury and settle for being Art's coach. Art "won" the girl but wants to retire from tennis which will displease Tashi. As for Patrick, his tennis career has fizzled significantly since his break up with Tashi and he no longer has either of them in his life. 

The trio has never been as whole as they were when they were together, so Patrick and Art deciding to put their friendship above winning feels like a satisfying resolution to their character arcs. 

Challengers is available to buy or rent on digital platforms.

Read more about Challengers on The Direct:

Challengers Movie Gets Exciting Online Streaming Release Update

Challengers Movie Poster Controversy Explained

Zendaya's Challengers Movie Reviews: Critics Share Strong First Reactions

- In This Article: Challengers
Release Date
April 26, 2024
Mike Faist
- About The Author: Lauren Rouse
Lauren Rouse has been a writer at The Direct since the site launched in 2020. She has a huge passion for everything pop culture and currently writes news articles for the Marvel, Star Wars, DC and video game branches.