Who Does Tashi End Up With in Challengers? Art or Patrick?

In ‘Challengers,’ unfolding against the backdrop of professional tennis, director Luca Guadagnino delves into innately human emotions tied to the spirit of competition. Tashi Duncan, Art Donaldson, and Patrick Zweig— three tennis players— helm the film’s non-linear narrative as their increasingly complex interpersonal relationships influence their careers. Thus, the story’s crux unravels in a final match between Art and Patrick— which opens and closes the film— wherein years of jealousy, betrayal, and pining come to a head at the tennis court.

As interspersed flashbacks reveal the entire context behind Tashi, Patrick, and Art, viewers understand the rivalry between the men whose friendship crumbled under the weight of their mutual attraction toward the woman. Therefore, as the pivotal Challengers match mounts between Patrick and Art, climaxing on an ambiguous and open note, fans are bound to wonder about the characters’ fate— particularly where Tashi’s affections stand for each man. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Tashi and Patrick’s Passionate Affair

Tashi, Patrick, and Art’s interconnected relationship begins when a teenage Patrick takes notice of Tashi at a Juniors Championship. Consequently, the boy brings Art, his best friend’s attention, to her as they witness Tashi on the court, obliterating her opponent. Even though Patrick and Art’s interests in girls usually vary, neither can help but feel an instant attraction toward Tashi. As such, both vie for her attention at the following evening party.

While Art is much more subdued about his interest, Patrick remains bold in his approach and invites Tashi to their hotel room for the night. Eventually, once Tashi arrives at their hotel room, the culmination of their mutual attraction results in a three-way kiss between the trio. By the end, Tashi even subtly coaxes the two boys to make out with one another, highlighting the existing tension between the best friends. Nevertheless, Tashi ends the night there, proposing that whoever beats the other player in the coming singles match between the two can have her number.

Patrick and Art know the former reigns superior at the tennis court. Therefore, it isn’t surprising when Patrick wins the game and snags Tashi’s number. As a result, Tashi and Patrick embark on a relationship built on palpable passion. Yet, it never really progresses past the inciting lust. Art remains jealous of Patrick for being chosen while also being envious of Tashi for stealing away his tennis partner. For the same reason, he attempts to come between the couple.

However, when Art points out the lack of love in their relationship, Tashi’s stance remains firm: she’s content in her relationship with Patrick without their feelings for each other ever turning into love. After all. in Patrick’s relationship with Tashi, Art is never the “third party” that the former man needs to worry about. Instead, the role is occupied by tennis— the centerfold of Tashi’s attention. Despite the distance presented by Tashi’s college and Patrick’s instant foray into a professional career, the couple’s relationship remains strong.

Yet, once Tashi gives Patrick tennis advice during sex— and Patrick proclaims he sees himself as Tashi’s peer rather than a fan— an argument breaks out between the couple. Afterward, Patrick misses Tashi’s next game, wherein she sustains a career-ending injury. The incident tears away an integral part of their relationship as Tashi finds herself suspended in the worst moment of her life without her boyfriend’s support. Consequently, Tashi and Patrick’s mutual passion for tennis ends up taking precedence over their heated relationship.

Tashi and Art’s Strategic Marriage

While Patrick misses Tashi’s life-changing match, Art manages to be at the right place and time. Even though Tashi had previously snapped at Art for trying to come between her and Patrick, she’s receptive to his empathetic company while at her lowest. Furthermore, Art establishes himself as a pillar by supporting Tashi’s anger at Patrick once the other man arrives at the game after hearing the tragic news of her injury.

Afterward, when Art and Tashi run into each other again— after enough time has passed for her to find her footing— he slots in the final puzzle piece that distinguishes himself from Patrick. Once Tashi advises Art on his tennis career, the man listens and pitches an offer for her to become his assistant coach. By doing so, he instantly highlights the pedestal he has put Tashi on from the very start. Where Patrick may have considered Tashi a peer, Art makes it clear that to him, she’s all but the God of Tennis.

Art’s offer proposes a way for Tashi to re-enter the world of tennis— even if as a coach rather than a player. Furthermore, it also presents the tempting opportunity for Tashi to live vicariously through Art’s career as a professional tennis player. Thus, the duos’ following relationship remains inevitable. Before, when Tashi’s tennis career was in full swing, she needed passion from her romantic partner and found it in Patrick. Nevertheless, now she needs the ability to construct a future— something Art is more than willing to provide her.

Consequently, Tashi and Art end up becoming the power couple of the tennis world despite the former’s departure from the court. Tashi coaches Art and helps him reach incredible heights, honing him into a notable talent. In turn, Art’s thriving career keeps Tashi in the limelight, allowing her to taste some of the fame and success she lost when her career as a tennis pro drowned. Their relationship is an incredible partnership— yet it lacks the one thing Patrick offered Tashi: passion.

For the same reason, Tashi cheats on Art in Atlanta shortly after their engagement when her path randomly crosses with Patrick’s during a championship. Nevertheless, she guards it as a secret from Art, going on to marry the man and have a kid, Lily, with him. For years, their marriage continues, with Tashi occupying the role of Art’s wife and coach in one stroke. Nonetheless, their marital bliss wanes once Art’s passion for tennis eclipses.

Tashi can survive the lack of passion in her marriage with Art because the man makes up for it on the tennis court, where he plays for the both of them. As a result, once it becomes clear that Art can no longer hold on to that end of the deal, Tashi’s happiness with him withers. For the same reason, as Art starts losing match after match, Tashi enters him at a low-stake Challengers tour in a last-ditch effort to save his career and, by association, their marriage.

Tennis: The Real Love of Tashi’s Life

Art’s Challengers tour shouldn’t hold much relevance in the grand scheme. When Tashi enlists her husband in the tournament, it’s essentially a way for him to exercise his competitive muscle in preparation for the more significant upcoming U.S. Open tournament. However, Patrick’s entrance into the same competition changes everything. Naturally, the two men end up competing against one another during the tour’s final match.

Patrick and Art’s positions have changed drastically since their teenage years when Art would joke about his best friend throwing the game to allow him a chance at winning. Art has been training under Tashi’s guidance for years and has established himself as a notable name in tennis. Meanwhile, Patrick, who burned too fast and bright, has lost his appeal as a tennis player, rendering himself a has-been. Still, Art has never beaten Patrick in a game.

Yet, where Art and Patrick’s previous matches remain relevant only to their dynamic, their future face-off in the Challengers finale will influence Tashi’s standing as a coach. The entire point of the Challengers tour is for Tashi to build up Art’s confidence and reignite his love for the sport. Nevertheless, a loss against Patrick will ensure the same doesn’t come to fruition. Patrick further complicates the matter by asking Tashi to become his coach and bring his dying career back to life.

Although the offer is tempting, Tashi isn’t willing to throw in the towel yet. As such, after Art discloses his intention to retire after the U.S. Open, Tashi tells him she won’t be able to stay with him any longer if he doesn’t at least beat Patrick at the upcoming game. Her threat remains honest enough, considering she contacts Patrick hours later and asks him to throw the game and let Art win tomorrow. The interaction ultimately ends with Tashi sleeping with Patrick, either in a desperate attempt to save her drowning partnership with Art or to escape it entirely.

Thus, when Art and Patrick enter the court the next day, they find themselves at a familiar place— competing for Tashi’s affection through a game of tennis. However, the game doesn’t unfold in a blazing competition where Tashi becomes the prize at the end of the line. Instead, near the match’s end, Patrick wordlessly reveals Tashi’s infidelity. Although the same initially infuriates Art, the revelation of his marriage’s deterioration ultimately reignites something previously dimmed inside his spirit. In some ways, Tashi, Art, and Patrick thrived when their relationships complicated their lives.

Patrick and Art cannot fulfill their potential without each other and Tashi’s presence in their lives. Thus, Art’s passion for the game has waned alongside Patrick’s success. The duo is stuck in an unhealthy cycle, competing for Tashi’s attention while lamenting the other’s loss. Therefore, once Patrick reveals Tashi’s infidelity to Art, they’re brought back into each other’s orbits without any secrets persisting between them.

As a result, now that Art and Patrick have found themselves on familiar footing, they play one of the best sets of their career. Consequently, they finally embody Tashi’s true love together on the field by offering her an invigorating game of tennis. As such, the film ends with the set’s end, leaving the match’s fate alongside Tashi, Art, and Patrick’s relationships up in the air for the audience’s interpretation. Tashi’s relationship with Art and Patrick has always been an extension of her relationship with tennis because she cannot live without the sport.

For the same reason, Tashi’s character arc comes to an end without the resolution of her relationship with either Art or Patrick. Instead, it ends when the duo’s magnetic match awakens Tashi’s passionate love for the sport, which had gone dormant ever since she couldn’t be an active part of it. In the end, Tashi can end up alone or with either Art or Patrick— or both— depending on the viewers’ interpretation of each character’s arc. Nonetheless, nothing can change the fact that Tashi’s one true love will always remain a hearty, electric game of tennis.

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