Challengers: Are Art and Patrick Bisexual? Did Patrick and Art Ever Date?

Luca Guadagnino’s sports-drama film ‘Challengers,’ which centers around professional tennis, explores the complicated relationship between three players—ripe with friendship, lust, and betrayals. Through a non-linear narrative, the film follows Art Donaldson and Patrick Zweig, two childhood friends who take on the world of professional tennis together. However, as their paths cross with Tashi Duncan, a magnetic tennis prodigy, their mutual attraction toward the woman drives a wedge between the boys. Consequently, the trio finds themselves hurled into years of drama that culminate in one final match between Art and Patrick.

While Tashi’s relationships with both Art and Patrick remain at the narrative center, a consistent live-wire tension persists between the two men. Even though this tension between Art and Patrick never manifests— save for one heated kiss— their chemistry is bound to leave the audience wondering about the nature of their relationship. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Art and Patrick’s Fluid Sexualities

Art and Patrick enter each other’s orbits from a young age. After attending the same tennis boarding school, their bond remains strong, and they embark on a journey toward professional tennis together. The boys partner up with each other during doubles and retain minimum competitiveness when they play against each other. In fact, Patrick’s athletic superiority over Art becomes a simple fact rather than a point of contention. Therefore, Tashi’s entry into the duo’s life brings an uncharted factor into their dynamic.

Tashi arrives in the narrative as an incredible tennis player whose presence on the court instantly attracts everyone’s attention. Therefore, the same, paired with her electric personality, draws Patrick and Art to her. Naturally, at a house party in Queens, both men make their attraction toward Tashi known to the woman, unencumbered by any sense of competition. Both simply assume Tashi will choose whomever she wants and seem content enough with the same.

Nevertheless, once Tashi arrives at their hotel room that night, she throws a curveball at the boys and kisses both of them. The moment paves the way for a passionate three-way kiss between the trio that ends with Art and Patrick making out with each other. Director Guadagnino weighed in on the scene in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, sharing, “The idea [is] that Tashi can see what they [Art and Patrick] don’t want to see or they cannot see, which is this incredible attraction that they have not only for her but also for one another.”

Thus, it remains evident that there’s a mutual attraction between Patrick and Art. Even though neither acts on it afterward— since Patrick starts dating Tashi— their dynamic continues to be tinted by romantic undertones. From consistent close proximity, lingering glances, and the homoerotically charged churro scene to their rivalry over Tashi’s affection, the duo’s future post-kiss becomes influenced by their feelings of attraction.

Therefore, it’s safe to assume both Patrick and Art are queer, though both remain unlabeled. Furthermore, Patrick seems much more open to his possible bisexuality, allowing himself to explore his attraction toward both men and women on dating apps. In contrast, Art focuses on his marriage with Tashi, content to let his attraction toward men— which only manifests as an attraction toward Patrick— go unexplored. As such, ultimately, Patrick and Art’s sexuality remains fluid, with both men showcasing an attraction toward multiple genders.

Does Patrick and Art’s Relationship Ever Go From Platonic to Romantic?

While Patrick and Art’s sexuality and mutual unresolved attraction toward one another is easy enough to decipher, the duo’s past presents a different story. Although the audience gets to hear about their past, the narrative never directly follows the characters before their late teenage years. Therefore, even the idea of Patrick and Art sharing a romantic past is introduced as a question. After both boys approach Tashi, inviting her to their hotel room, she asks whether or not something ever happened between the two.

The boys are unusually shy about the question and go on to reveal that Patrick taught Art how to masturbate when he was a kid, leading to a session of mutual masturbation across the room to the thought of the same girl. The information adds a weirdly intimate experience to the duo’s dynamic. Furthermore, it sets the tone for their continued closeness. However, it also proposes the question of whether or not something else ever happened between the two boys. Given the tension between the two after Tashi’s inclusion into their dynamic and the resulting drift between them, it’s most likely that Patrick and Art never explored the possibility of romance between them.

Thus, it’s more than likely that the kiss Patrick and Art share in the hotel room involving Tashi might be their first kiss with each other. From there, their romantic feelings for Tashi, which births a newfound competition between the two, end up taking precedence over their own chemistry. Yet, Patrick and Art’s competitiveness over Tashi remains laced with mutual jealousy at the other man choosing Tashi over themselves. As such, their paths eventually diverge until they meet back again at the final Challengers match. Since the film sports an open ending, it remains unknown whether Patrick and Art will ever foray into the romantic possibility of their relationship. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say the two characters do not have a romantic history with each other.

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