Though there will be fewer and fewer matches each successive day at The Championships, Wimbledon 2011, it's still not hard to learn at least a half-dozen things. Here's what Wednesday's Day 3 action taught us:
1. Old ladies can play. The days of women's tennis youth movement seem to be completely over. Not only has there not been a teenage slam champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 US Open, the oldest end of the spectrum keeps playing better and better tennis. The French Open final was contested between twenty-nine year-old Li Na and thirty year-old Francesca Schiavone, and the match of Wimbledon thus far was today's second round battle between thirty-one year old Venus Williams and FORTY year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.
2. Young Brits will be able to play. British tennis, however, is still banking on youth. Aside from the obvious contributions of Andy Murray, two young British women are looking more and more like forces to be reckoned with in the long term. Heather Watson, the 2009 US Open Girls' Singles champion, put up a valiant fight before losing in three sets to Mathilde Johansson, a match she almost certainly would have won if not for an elbow injury. Laura Robson, the 2008 Girls' Singles champion at Wimbledon, won her first main draw match at a grand slam on Day 3 with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber. She next faces No. 5 Maria Sharapova, which should be a good learning experience for her if nothing else. Robson hit a whopping 53 winners in her win over Kerber, so she should be able to win her share of points against Sharapova as well, one would assume.
3. Milos Raonic will not be the breakout star of Wimbledon 2011, which sucks. No. 31 Milos Raonic, a young Canadian one of my ten players to watch in the men's field, suffered a leg injury early in his second round match against Gilles Muller, and was forced to retire while up a break at 3-2 in the first set. With his powerful serve and hard, flat groundstrokes, Raonic could have very well made a name for himself by beating Rafael Nadal in the third round the two would have contested if Raonic hadn't been hurt. Raonic could have become tennis' answer to Rory McIlroy with a win at Wimbledon 2011, but his star turn is now going to have to wait.
4. Juan Martin del Potro doesn't need shoes (or he has spares). After dropping the first set tiebreak 9-7 to tiny Belgian Olivier Rochus, Juan Martin del Potro took off his enormous shoes and walked to the net, asking for the match to be called due to darkness. When the tournament referee agreed that play should be called, del Potro threw each of his shoes into the stands, throwing one clear over the top of the stadium and hitting an exiting fan in the head with the second.
5. It's best to be lucky and good. Lucky Loser Simone Bolelli lost in the final round of qualifying, but has not dropped a set since, winning both his first round match against qualifier Martin Fischer and his second round match against No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets. Bolelli's win made Wawrinka the highest seed thus far to be excused from the Gentlemen's Singles draw. Two other Lucky Losers made it into the second round as well, with Grega Zemlja losing in four sets against No. 9 Gael Monfils, and American Ryan Harrison still awaiting his second round match against No. 7 David Ferrer. On the women's side, Canadian Lucky Loser Stephanie Dubois pushed No. 11 Andrea Petkovic to three sets before falling as darkness descended on SW19.
6. We will have a rematch of a Wimbledon 2010 semifinal in the third round of Wimbledon 2011. No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova both won the necessary two matches to set up a rematch of their thrilling semifinal from last year in the third round of this year's tournament. Pironkova has been the sharper of the two so far in this event, though has faced considerably inferior competition. It should be a good one.