During one of this film's deepest moments, a character muses, "In tennis, love means nothing." Unfortunately, in movies like this, that twist of words is even more true, thanks to shortsighted decisions of passion made by tennis players Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) and Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst).
They are both contestants at Wimbledon. Lizzie, an American, is just reaching the pinnacle of tennis stardom, while UK native Peter, once ranked the 11th best in the world, is now clinging to 119th place. Selected as a wildcard pick, he plans on retiring from the sport right after the tournament - which he and everyone else is convinced will happen early in the eliminations.
But such self-deprecation can never be tolerated in a choreographed sports story like this one! Perfectly poised to become the light in his darkness, the hot air in his balloon, and the sexy girl in his bed, is Lizzie.
The spirited blonde meets Peter after he mistakenly enters into her hotel room. Rather than call the police or launch a lawsuit, she calmly steps out from behind the barely-obscured shower door, and greets the baffled contestant, au natural (seen shoulders up by those in the audience).
In spite of his embarrassed quick exit, Peter is curious to meet the sassy girl again. Arranging lunch in her room, the Brit doesn't even get the fish and chips unwrapped before Lizzie proposes the idea that having sex prior to their tennis matches will make them better players. Assumedly a fan of sport's psychology, Peter quickly agrees, and the two begin a series of pre-game warm-ups.
However, her father (Sam Neill), who is determined to coach his daughter to her first Wimbledon win, isn't amused-and it has nothing to do with the morals of their decision. His major issue is Lizzie will lose her focus if she becomes romantically attached.
It appears Father knows best. While Peter's game steadily improves, Lizzie's play becomes increasingly stale. With the country excited about having an Englishman in the finals, and the media recognizing Lizzie's role in Peter's resurrection, the couple is forced to determine if it's sex or love that's keeping them together.
Playing out like any other game on the big screen, this sports movie comes with the usual down-to-the-wire climax. And the off-the-court courting is just as predictable. Without a hint of surprise, Wimbledon's most interesting moments are the simulated tennis matches (even though we know who will win) and the tourist shots of England's best visual assets.
Yet for all the "love" in tennis, there's little to be felt on the screen. Instead this film stages the stereotypical male fantasy featuring a sex-starved athletic blonde. The sentimental ending pulls the heartstrings a little more in the right direction, especially in the relationship improvements between the characters and their parents. However, it's not enough to make this tennis story, with frequent profanities and sexual comments, anywhere near a match made in heaven.