Ranking Zendaya’s—er, Tashi Duncan’s—hairstyles in ‘Challengers’ from cunt to cuntiest

Much has been said about Luca Guadagnino’s thirsty new tennis flick “Challengers”—about how Mike Faist is the latest “It twink” find for the Italian director (step aside, Timmy) or how we are living in Josh O’Connor’s acting peak (Hello, “Chimera”) but not enough about the looks Zendaya, who plays tennis prodigy turned tennis wife Tashi Duncan, served throughout.

While everyone is busy decoding the homoeroticism of every scene Faist and O’Connor are in (rightfully so), the girlies are sleeping on the sickening bobs, the braids that had their own lives, and the billowing tresses that had the boys falling under her spell. 

Hair, along with makeup, helped build the storyline that followed the three protagonists over the course of their careers, from their teens to their lives as professional tennis players. For the film’s hair designer, Massimo Gattabrusi, Tashi’s hair also communicated the power she wielded inside and outside the court. 

In an interview with Glamour, Gattabrusi said one can trace Tashi’s character’s development through her hair. “In the beginning, she wore one long, very strong wig, and during the tennis matches she was tied with a really tight, long, and strong braid. The choice to go in this direction was thinking about a determined person, a warrior. At this young age, she is powerful and wants to win,” he said.

Her hair was then cut short, shoulder mid-length, after she suffered from a career-ending injury. This, he said, signified “a temporary moment, the temporary part of life.”

Gattabrusi said his team did research with video and pictures of real tennis players. “We saw tennis players with long hair and long braids, and it impressed us—this powerful hairdo.” A shoutout to tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams is in order, for sure. Tennis style icons, I know that’s right!

In honor of “Challengers” and patron saint of yearning white male tennis players, the Duncanator herself, we rank the top five hair moments of Tashi Duncan, from cunt to cuntiest.

The siren in a blue dress


Guadagnino loves a good dance scene and Zendaya delivers one during the post-US Open Championship party while Patrick Zweig (O’Connor) and Art Donaldson (Faist) pines from afar. The scene later sends the three down the beach where Tashi sits on a rock wearing a blue dress. The breeze gently blowing her long and straight hair, she delivers what I can only describe as the CliffNotes summary of the movie. Girl read Freud’s “Sex As a Sublimation for Tennis” down!

The threesome waves


This will not be a worthy list if we do not discuss the scene that made us all intrigued and thirsty over this movie in the first place: the ménage à trois. After seeing her made up for the court and a party in her honor, we see young Tashi off-duty for the first time in a pink velour hoodie, skimpy shorts, and loose waves, ready to interrogate the boys about their bromance. The way she flipped her hair back to let the boys nuzzle her neck?! Baby, that’s cinema!

The US Open long braid


Not since Beyonce’s iconic braid whip have we been captivated by a braid like this. The moment she stepped in on that court with her cool swagger, we knew exactly why Patrick was so smitten he had to take his best bro to see her. “She’s in another league!” “You mean her game?” “No. I mean she’s the hottest woman I’ve ever seen.” And reader, he did not utter one lie. We need to see more long braids in culture! As the Duncanator herself said, Come on! *“Yeah X10” plays on repeat*

The post-training confrontation wet look


Ah, the now iconic grey “I TOLD YA” T-shirt (P18,000 from Loewe) makes its first appearance in this scene made only more iconic by the way Tashi wore it with a just-showered hairdo. We know that the curls are from her undoing a braid she had for training, giving it a more relaxed, looser vibe. But one must not forget! This is also the part where she says THE line: “What makes you think I want someone to be in love with me?” And we know how it went from there. (No spoilers!) But kudos mama to that T-shirt, for setting the scene, and for that hair for making it 10x better.

The grown-up bob


A wise philosopher once sang, “What’s your name? B.o.B? So they’re calling you, Bob?” Back to Gattabrusi’s point about how when she lost her power on the court, Tashi’s hair was cut short. I, however, think this is her at her most powerful. She’s the captain of the Art-Tashi ship, she’s spitting, screaming, and sneering at her ex dominating her husband, and making deals in the dark. A woman in a bob is truly unstoppable.

Photos from Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Christian San Jose: