So when we began practicing the points in Boston, Luca would come out and give us notes. He’d say, “I want this point to be shorter, I want that one to be longer. I want a little more action. I wanted more intensity.” He would think it through, then I would write it out some more, and then he would think on it a little bit more. Then, he would have his signature added to every detail. That was kind of the process of getting these points ready for filming.

So they were fully choreographed points. You were the tennis choreographer.

Every shot Justin had written in the script, but he didn’t detail how the point was going to be played. He was hoping that I would add in the verbiage so everybody knows what we’re going to do. The big thing was trying to balance getting the points right and then working with three people who had never really played tennis before.

You worked with the film’s stars to get them to a place of mimicking professional-level tennis. Where do you start with this process? Tell me about day one of the Brad Gilbert Hollywood Tennis Academy.

We hit a lot of balls, a couple hours every day, and then we got into the specifics of learning the points, the choreography. We had crazy long days in Boston at the Weymouth Tennis Club. Monday to Saturday, we’d start at seven in the morning. We had three courts, each on one court. We’re trying to maximize what we can do during those six weeks and with shitty weather. We probably averaged four hours a day on court. Then they’d go right to the gym for a couple of hours. They wanted Josh leaner, Mike to get much stronger, and Z a little more cut. Then after that, they’d have all afternoon to do their acting lessons.

Tennis has one of the highest learning curves of any sport. The distance between what you’re seeing on TV and what you can do on a court is hard to fathom. How did these three actors adjust to that learning curve?

First of all, the coolest thing of all three of ’em, they didn’t really know each other that well before we started, [but] they had great chemistry, great camaraderie. They encouraged each other.

The biggest leap for them was learning to play the points that we had written out. You play with no ball and you really work on your technique and moving and playing the point in control. That helps you learn the feeling of the game a lot more quickly as opposed to if you try to play the actual points.

How did you go about designing each character’s playing style? Did you do that in collaboration with Luca and Justin, or each individual actor? Let’s start with Zendaya.

I had a couple of months out in L.A. with Zendaya before we got to Boston. We started getting her on the court, first working with a fitness person and then working on technique, copying techniques of players to watch. She worked a ton on the videos that we sent her and then all of a sudden she [was like,] Okay, this is the swing I’ve got. And then she was able to reproduce it. The script called for her character to be an aggressive killer type of tennis player, but you don’t know exactly what style that is.

What were the videos you were sending her?

Kim was sending her videos of taller, thinner players like Venus [Williams] and [Maria] Sharapova to give her an idea of what her character could be. And, actually, I took her to several college matches, mostly Pepperdine and UCLA. They’re both top five in the country and really big rivals. Every match is intense. Every point there’s screaming. When we went and watched them, there were a few girls she asked about. She was really impacted by seeing the physical side of the college game, the grunting, et cetera. She was pretty surprised to see all of that shit happening at the college matches. You can’t believe all the screaming on every court on the college level. It’s a little bit different than pro.

Now, I have to ask one question about Zendaya’s forehand in the film. It’s perplexing. If you haven’t watched a lot of tennis, you might not notice it. But if you have, it’s distracting and won’t sit right with you. Can we talk about that? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the Zendaya forehand.

She really worked a ton on her forehand swing and her backhand swing, but a lot of that was learning with an air swing, without the ball. Then, with the power of CGI, it looks like, for her, the swing is sped up a little bit more. But given this short period of time, and considering she had never really played before, I thought she did an amazing job.

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