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REVIEW: Zendaya's tennis movie 'Challengers' might be the horniest I've ever felt about sports

If you listen hard, you can hear Oscars buzz over the sound of those serves.

And it did that without any actual sex scenes. 

Much like a good game of tennis, Challengers is fast, exhilarating, a little confusing (I don't understand the scoring), and very sweaty. 

It tells the tangled tale of a three-way-relationship between childhood best friends Art (Mike Faist) and Patrick (Josh O'Connor), and the object of their desire: Tashi (Zendaya). 

Challengers movie

When I say three-way-relationship, I don't **quite** mean in the ENM, polyamorous sense, but it definitely veers that way at times. 

At the start, they're just a bunch of talented, tennis-playing teenagers, each with their own bright future in the sport. Like many teens, they also want to smoke ciggies, drink beer and get laid. 

Art and Patrick first meet Tashi over a hormone-fuelled evening that takes place once they've picked their jaws off the floor watching her play. 

Challengers movie

The sexual tension is RIFE, the make-out sesh is experimental, and the game is on. Tashi, well and truly in charge of the at times comically horny situation, promises her number to whichever boy wins their Junior US Open match the next day. 

What follows is a series of high-stake competitions both on and off the court - Art and Patrick battle to maintain their brotherly bond, be the best at their game and bag the girl. Tashi is mostly at war with herself.

Challengers movie

After a traumatic knee injury - the whole cinema cringed - derails her dreams of going pro, Tashi eventually becomes Art's coach while Patrick gets forced out of the picture. He's down, but definitely not out. 

The acting from the trio is captivating - particularly the chemistry between Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist. Of all the bromances in all the movies, their take on this one made it truly unforgettable.

Challengers movie

One of my mates reckoned there were too many long close-ups of everyone's faces, but for me, the lingering looks, intense eye contact, tears and knowing smiles in high definition all added to the sexy sensory overload. 

Challengers movie

Zendaya is, as usual, a total knockout. The only flaw in her performance is no fault of her own - it's just the fact she looks so good. Bear with me. 

Because the film spans several years, the stars play teenagers, 20-somethings and beyond. Zendaya's male co-stars convincingly age, but she does not. She looks right on the money as a college student, but not as an older mother and businesswoman. 

Challengers movie

Like I say, hardly her fault - but it does kind of pull you out of the moment at times. 

If you thought tennis was all polite clapping and wide-brimmed hats, this movie will change that. The many matches are set to a heavy, thumping electronic music score and the cinematography is dizzyingly intense. 

With so many angles of the rippling, glossy male bodies, it's hard to tell whether we're supposed to be objectifying them or marvelling at their athletic prowess. I'm gonna go with both. 

At one point, the viewer literally becomes the ball and gets a wild POV of being smacked up and down the court. 

Meanwhile, between the iconic tennis grunts and explosive backhands, the sound design is almost as stimulating as the bedroom scenes (and one in a car) that always break away before things get graphic.

Challengers is about obsession, manipulation, desire, determination and betrayal - tennis is just the backdrop.