Challengers: Meet the Former Tennis Star Who Helped Bring Zendaya’s Game to Life

For the casual viewer, the new Zendaya film Challengers is an electric and sexy romp about sports, competition, and of course, a love triangle. But for Kathryn “Kara” Hall, the film rang true—and bittersweet.

Hall, 28, had spent most of her childhood and young adulthood devoting her entire life to tennis, first as a junior player and then as a college athlete at the University of Michigan. Realizing she wasn’t going to go pro, Hall hung up her racket after graduation and focused on building the next chapter of her life without the sport that had thus far defined it. She got a normal corporate job in Chicago, got married, and focused on balance.

“I kind of pushed tennis away, and I was like, I’m not this tennis player anymore. It took up too much of my life when I was younger,” she tells me.

That is until 2022, when out of the blue she was contacted by producers for the film, Challengers. They were looking for a tennis player who physically resembled Zendaya, and Hall fit the bill. It was such an unexpected occurrence that Hall at first wasn’t sure if it was legit, but suddenly, she was on a film set, helping the star train for her role as Tashi Duncan and appearing as her “tennis double” in the film.

Hall, of course, enjoyed the amazing experience of being on a Hollywood production—and all the glitz and glam that came with it—but the best part was rediscovering her passion for the sport.

“It helped me appreciate a new love for the game of coming back and being proud of the skills I still have even if I’m not competing on the pro tour,” she says.

Hall caught up with Glamour to chat about how she helped create Tashi’s fierce game, the person she was most excited to see at the Challengers premiere, and who of the film’s core trio she’s most likely to root for.

Glamour: Tell us about your tennis career.

Kara Hall: I grew up in a big sports family. I have three younger sisters, and my dad played a lot of sports in college. So when we were growing up, he got us all into sports. As I got older, I decided that I wanted to take tennis as far as I could. So I focused on tennis at a young age, went down to a tennis academy in Florida and trained through the week and traveled across the country to play tournaments in hopes of playing at college. Then I was lucky enough to be able to pursue my college career at University of Michigan, and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. Tennis was my whole life; it has always been a part of me, and I fully loved training and working towards a goal, whether it was a tournament or a match with the team. It was like a full-time job. I’ve always been an aggressive baseline player with a big forehand, [like Tashi in the movie], which is a fun aspect.

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