Bettany plays Peter Colt, an British tennis player who was once ranked 11th in the world. He is now 119th and finds himself at what he is sure will be his last Wimbledon tournament as a wildcard. He is sad about his status and eventual future as a tennis instructor, but he also seems to be making peace with himslef, thanks in part to his friendship with German tennis player Dieter Prohl (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game of Thrones fame), who is in a similar position. But everything changes for Peter when he meets American rising tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), whose frank admiration and take-charge manner pull him out of his self-pitying rut. The two hit it off instantly:
Lizzie, "Where do you come down on the whole 'fooling around before a match' issue?"Peter is not only swept away by Lizzie's magnetism and his new romance; her pragmatism and confidence about the game of tennis have an effect on him too, and he starts winning matches. The course of their affair does not run smooth however, as Lizzie's celebrity attracts a lot of media attention and her coach/manager/father (Sam Neill) wants the two to call a halt to things as he suspects that this relationship may not be one of Lizzie's usual "tension relievers" and might distract her from their main goal — to win Wimbledon.
Peter, "Well, that's a very intriguing question ..."
Lizzie, "'Cause I think a little fooling around can be really good for your game. You know, help you relax."
Peter, "Um, I'm not sure I've done enough reasearch to have a definitive opinion."
Lizzie, "That's very sad."
Peter, "Yes, it is, isn't it."
Lizzie, "It is ... very sad ..."
Peter, "Don't get me wrong, I'm ... very interested in doing the necessary research. Very intered in in doing the necessary research. Are you?"
Lizzie, "I'm interested."
Tennis fans will be thrilled to see cameos of some of the sport's biggest stars. John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Mary Carillo, and John Barrett all play match commentators, while Vikas Punna, Beti Sekulovski, Murphy Jensen, Alun Jones, and Rebecca Dandeniya also play small parts. Peter's loving but distant family also provides a good deal of comic relief — Eleanor Bron and Bernard Hill as his parents, and James McAvoy as his brother Carl, who rushes to place a bet against his brother at match time. Filling out the cast are Celia Imrie, Jon Favreau, and Robert Lindsay.
Wimbledon flips our expectations by having Lizzie the aggressor and then flips them again and then again as their relationship proceeds. What at first seems like a standard A Star is Born set-up turns into something else. Who is in power? Does anyone have an agenda? Can two athletes really fall in love during a tournament? The film also ramps up the excitement in its filmed tennis sequences — the ultimate victory match is both intense and involving — a real nailbiter. But what really makes Wimbledon work is the chemistry between its two leads and their off-kilter romance. Definitely worth a look.