What does the cryptic ending of Challengers mean? We might finally have an answer.

Okay, hands up if you've seen Challengers and you're still trying to figure out what the hell happened in that final scene? Same.

The new movie, directed by Luca Guadagnino (of Call Me By Your Name fame), has a real "what did I just watch" ending that's been living in my head rent-free.

In case you missed it, Challengers stars our queen Zendaya alongside Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor in a steamy love triangle drama set in the world of professional tennis

The film revolves around teenage tennis prodigy Tashi (Zendaya), who becomes entangled with Art (Faist) and Patrick (O'Connor) over 13 years. After her own career is cut short by injury, Tashi channels her competitive energy into coaching Art who she goes on to marry, as the couple distances themselves from Patrick whose tennis career has taken a nosedive.

The whole movie builds up to this epic final match between Tashi's husband Art (Faist) and her ex-flame Patrick (O'Connor). By doing a gesture the two men know signifies having sex with Tashi, Patrick confirms to Art that he had slept with his wife. 

This ignites an electrifying match between the men ending in a climactic moment where Art leaps across the net and collides with Patrick, as the men have a tender embrace as Tashi screams 'Come on!', her earlier catchphrase.

And that's... it??

Zendaya as Tashi in Challengers. Image: Warner Bros. 


When the credits roll, we're left with more questions than answers. Like, who actually won that match? Are Art and Patrick secretly in love with each other? And why was Tashi screaming like a banshee at the end there?

Don't stress — we're here to break it down for you. Let's dive into the Challengers ending because trust me, there's a lot to unpack.

The best theories to explain the meaning behind the Challengers ending.

A popular theory on the subreddit r/Challengers is that no one won the match. "The winner of the tie-break isn't decided nearly that early. There's a lot of tennis left to play as of that point," wrote one Redditor


They added that Tashi's yell was over her excitement that she was finally watching some thrilling gameplay away from her sporting career which came to an untimely end. 

"That's her 'real tennis' scream, not a victory scream," they said.

"She would be out in the world playing 'real tennis' if not for her injury. It's something she prided herself on and something she felt both boys were unable to achieve without her help. And no, Art isn't okay with Patrick having slept with Tashi. But that dynamic does drive him to play harder. You'll remember when Art was practicing one time with Tashi and then Patrick showed up, and immediately his hits got harder. Tashi is like a catalyst in their relationship."

Listen to The Spill host's interview with Zendaya. Post continues after podcast.

Another commenter theorised that the tennis game was merely a metaphor for the boys' competitive relationship. 

"Early in the film, Tashi says tennis is a relationship. A good tennis match can — and should — feel like the two players are in love, or at least understand each other completely, without having to say a word," another added

"Art hasn’t been playing good tennis recently. He’s lost all passion for the game. Patrick seemingly hasn’t played good tennis since the beginning of the film, when it seems like he’ll be a star but squanders his chances. But together, they play with all the tension and passion required to play an excellent match. They play like they’re in a relationship.


"That’s why even though they should hate each other, they’re both smiling. That’s why they end up hugging, and Tashi shouts and switches from anger to joy. Because playing each other has brought the spark back for all of them.

"The film doesn’t tell us who won, because that’s not the point. The real winner here isn’t Art or Patrick, it’s the game. They’re finally playing the game properly again."

A different perspective on the final game was that it represented the sex scene we wanted all along from an earlier moment that alluded to a three-way that never eventuated. 

"I didn’t like the ending right away, and then it hit me, and it was PERFECT. The ending is a threesome. Seriously," offered another movie fan on Reddit

"With the 'tennis is a relationship', and Tashi’s orgasmic scream... triumph and intensity and release! And that wasn’t just a hug, that was like a full-on embrace, like earlier in the movie when they knock each other down and hold each other after they win," they continued. 

"People are all 'oh, I can’t believe they didn’t have a threesome!' They….they did! That was the ending!"  

Game, set, match indeed!

Feature image: Warner Bros. 

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