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Zendaya's Tennis Movie 'Challengers' and Its Real-Life Inspiration

In the film, Zendaya's character Tashi is the ultimate tennis It girl until a crushing injury forces her to the sidelines, where she serves as her husband Art's tennis coach. However, when Art (Mike Faist) finds himself on a losing streak after recovering from his own injury, she enters him into a low-stakes competition to get his head back in the game. Instead, the couple find themselves in a sexually charged conundrum when Art has to face off against his ex best friend and Tashi's ex flame Patrick (Josh O'Connor).

The movie hit theaters on April 26 and has already scored rave reviews—but what if I told you Zendaya and Faist's characters were partially inspired by a real-life former tennis couple? Do you think you'd be able to guess which one? Keep in mind, we're talking about tennis dynamics here, not the threesomes and love triangles.

Although screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes realized tennis was “cinematic” while watching Naomi Osaka defeat Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open, it turns out Tashi's backstory has a lot in common with Roger Federer's wife, Mirka Federer.

In an interview with GQ, Kuritzkes said he was struck by Mirka's “stressed out” expressions during her husband's 2019 Wimbledon match against Novak Djokovic. He said, “I was watching her and just thinking, ‘Why are you so stressed out? You guys have all the money in the world. You've won 20 grand slams. What's so stressful to you? It has to be something else.’”

That's when he learned that Mirka (born Miroslava Vavrinec) was a professional tennis player until an ankle injury forced her retire in 2002—just two years after meeting Roger Federer at the 2000 Summer Olympics. “She kind of became [Federer’s] manager, and sort of managed his life,” Kuritzkes told GQ. “He credits her a lot for [his success].”

According to People, the couple got married in 2009 and share two sets of twins: 14-year-old daughters Myla and Charlene and nine-year-old sons Lenny and Leo. “[Mirka's] been there when I had no titles and she's still here 89 titles later, so she had a big part to play in [the win],” Roger Federer reportedly told the press after winning the Australian Open in 2017. “She knows it, I know it, everybody knows it.”

In fact, Serena Williams made the connection between Art and Roger Federer in her Vogue review of Challengers. “A lot of male tennis players really rely on their wives and girlfriends,” she wrote of Faist's character. “Just look at someone like Roger Federer: he used to actually hit with his wife, Mirka, and they were like glue.”

She continued, “You see that so much in men’s tennis, especially with the players that are doing really well, but I was like that too. If you’re on the top, no one speaks to you. You’re alone so much that you end up being really dependent on your team and their opinions. And I mean, I was codependent with Venus at the beginning—worse than Art with Tashi. She was my support system. So it’s interesting that the movie was able to capture some of that experience.”

You can read William's complete review here, but only after you see Challengers for yourself. Zendaya's new tennis movie is in theaters now.

The original article can be found on Glamour US.

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