PTT Champion Marcela Zacarias Stars in King Richard Alongside Will Smith

PTT Champion Marcela Zacarias Stars in King Richard Alongside Will Smith

6 min read

Before Marcela Zacarias began her stellar 2021 season, she was doing something challenging and totally unexpected: starring in a Hollywood film.

Zacarias, a nine-time champion on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour, makes her acting debut in King Richard, a new film about Richard Williams and how he got his daughters Venus and Serena started on the path to greatness from humbling beginnings in Compton, Calif.

In Zacarias' scene near the end of the 2-hour and 24-minute film, she plays Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario as she battles a 14-year-old Venus in the 1994 Bank of the West Classic. The tournament marked Venus' WTA debut, and at the time, Sanchez-Vicario was 22 years old and ranked No. 1 in the world.

Zacarias spent weeks filming with the A-list crew in Los Angeles, which included Will Smith as Richard Williams, Saniyya Sidney as Venus, and Demi Singleton as Serena.

Getting Scouted by Hollywood

It all began with producer Trevor White watching Zacarias at a WTA tournament in Newport Beach in early 2020. Zacarias had just lost a match and couldn’t believe the offer to try out for the part. COVID delayed production, until finally, at the end of 2020, she was sent to Los Angeles for six weeks to quarantine, train, and film scenes with Smith, Sidney, and Ayan Broomfield, a former UCLA standout that was Sidney's body double on the court.

“Ayan and I were friends since you were young so we were super excited,” Zacarias said. “Before we started serving a point we'd go into the shots we’d hit, so we had good chemistry and that helped a lot."

Zacarias and Broomfield had to play the same points over and over again to get the scene exactly right, while Zacarias also had to do certain reactions to points, and leave the court for a famous bathroom break.



Getting into Character

Zacarias is featured prominently in the film yet she’s almost unrecognizable with pitch-black hair. Luckily she didn’t have to change her strokes too much to fit the part.

“This is real, this happened in real life,” Zacarias said. "I had to lose a point and get mad. Aranxta went to the bathroom for like 10 minutes, so we were trying to like do the same. It was really natural. I was nervous, of course. Will Smith was standing there, and I was giving out angry looks!”



Rubbing Elbows with A-Listers

A lot of what Zacarias experienced for the film was new and exciting, and the best part may have been working with Smith. Not many tennis players can say they’ve spent quality time with someone as well known and respected as the 53-year-old actor.

"I think he's the best person,” Zacarias said. "He was super nice—super, super nice. He wants you to have fun. I told him all about my career and that filming was something super fun and cool for me to do. He recognized how I feel.”

At the Hollywood premiere of the film in November, Zacarias got to enjoy a reunion with the entire cast and walk the red carpet. She strolled the same carpet as executive producers Venus and Serena Williams and was already friends with their older sister Isha, who is a producer on the film.



Taking Confidence into the Season

Instead of distracting from her off-season training, the filming experience gave Zacarias a confidence boost.

"White is like my lucky charm,” Zacarias said. "Ever since I met him, everything was so great and I started playing so good."

Zacarias would put together an incredible 2021 campaign, winning nine PTT titles in 10 appearances and compiling a 58-1 PTT record. On the ITF Tour, she reached the final of a W25 and W60 and the semifinals of a W80 (she also won two ITF doubles titles). She’s ranked No. 318 on the PTT rankings, and her UTR Rating is 11.49, up from 11.33 at the start of the season.

In 2022, she plans to keep pursuing as many playing opportunities as possible, including on PTT. Who knows, she may even be called up for more feature films. But for now, she's thoroughly enjoying her debut as King Richard plays in theatres and is available to stream on HBO Max.

•UTR Ratings and Rankings as of 9 a.m. EST, Dec. 6, 2021.

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