Wimbledon 2011: Court Three opens for business

Wimbledon Championships

Venue:
All England Club, London
Date:
20 June-3 July
Coverage:
Live on BBC One, Two, 3D, HD, Red Button, online (UK only), Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra; live text commentary from 0900 BST on BBC Sport website (#bbctennis); watch again on iPlayer
Katie O'Brien serves to Kimiko Date-Krumm on the new Court Three
Court Three is situated on the site of the old Court Two

The first day of Wimbledon 2011 may have ended under horribly dark skies but it began on a far brighter note - and not only because the sun was shining.

In a short ceremony attended by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the all-new Court Three was officially declared open for business.

It seemed a fitting way to mark the start of the 125th Championships and if this arena goes on to generate half as many tales as its predecessor on the same site, we should be in for a treat.

Situated next to the main gates at entrance 13 and below the players' restaurant, it takes the spot previously occupied by the famous old Court Two - 'the Graveyard of Champions'.

Among the victims of that idiosyncratic stadium were Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Michael Stich, Andre Agassi, Conchita Martinez, Richard Krajicek, Pete Sampras, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Martina Hingis.

Whether or not the replacement produces such upsets remains to be seen, but there was enough time for it to claim two scalps - albeit less illustrious - before the heavens opened on Monday.

Once the formalities had been completed and most of the 1,980 padded seats were filled, Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm set about dismantling Britain's Katie O'Brien.

Many spectators were still taking photographs of the concrete bowl, which features Hawk Eye technology, when 40-year-old Date-Krumm returned to her chair having taken the first set in 17 minutes.

The capacity may be slightly down on the old Court Two, which housed 2,192 plus 770 standing, but the steep stands and their closeness to the immaculate grass make for a good atmosphere and around a quarter of the seats are unreserved.

Indeed, the crowd's support appeared to help invigorate O'Brien in the second set and she fought back from a break down on three occasions to level at 5-5 before eventually succumbing 6-0 7-5.

"I was a bit surprised actually," wildcard O'Brien said of the All England Club's decision to schedule her first up on the new venue.

"I was commenting to some of my friends that the new Court Three looked really nice, and then I got put on the there to play!

"This morning I was told the Duke of Kent would be doing the coin toss and officially opening the court, so that's something I won't forget.

"It was a really nice atmosphere, quite intimate. It was a bit slippery early on and the ball was bouncing very low, but that was because the grass hadn't been played on.

"You could see the people up on the balcony watching in the players' lounge as well. It's probably one of the nicest courts to play on."

It could be argued that the court lacks charm - it is very similar to the new Court Two unveiled in 2010 which has a capacity of 4,063 - and the safety net erected to prevent balls flying on to Somerset Road does little to aid its appeal.

During the O'Brien match, Daily Mail tennis correspondent Mike Dickson wrote on social networking site Twitter: "On the new Court 3. Disappointing, unimaginative design. Lacks character of old No. 2 it replaced."

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Isner and Mahut can't stay away from each other

But men's 14th seed Stanislas Wawrinka had no complaints following his 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over Potito Starace of Italy.

"It is a really nice court," the Swiss told BBC Sport. "When I arrived to practise last week I saw it and thought 'wow, I hope I can play a match there' because it's really nice to get on a new court.

"I enjoyed it. The grass is great and the crowd were perfect. The bounce seemed to be pretty similar to the practice courts, it was great.

"I know it's on the site of the old Court Two but I'm not superstitious and I don't think about things like that when I go on court."

Women's 15th seed Jelena Jankovic, men's seventh seed David Ferrer and British wildcard Heather Watson are due to sample it for themselves on Tuesday.

As are John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in a repeat of their unforgettable first-round meeting from 2010.

Spanning three days, more than 11 hours and no fewer than 183 games, that match was the longest in history.

The new Court Three could be about to witness something special.

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