THE outcome of the women's title race has the potential to be extraordinarily dramatic.
The cast has been divided into old hands and the new wave, and the leading players in both sections made their way into the third round yesterday.
But Heather Watson, the rising star of British tennis, played the stereotypical role of plucky loser.
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As Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams cruised through to show that the new wave may yet crash on the obdurate surface of resilient experience, Watson was leaving the tournament at the hands of Angelique Kerber.
The 26-year-old German, ranked No.7 in the world, defeated the 22-year-old from Guernsey 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 and then gave the obligatory paean to the defeated: "Heather is a great player. She had great results in the last few weeks. She's playing good on grass. So I was trying to focus on myself to try to be aggressive. I mean, in the second set she was playing better and moved much better."
This all was true and Watson, again, showed she has the potential to rise considerably from her present ranking of 60. However, she was commendably blunt about her failings and frank over her ambitions.
"I enjoy being the person people look to and I want to be the person that everybody has their hopes on. It means that I will be doing well and going up the rankings," she said. "I don't want to lose in the second round of grand slams. I want to beat these players and make it happen. I was very upset when I walked off the court."
There were, though, young winners. Eugenie Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian, defeated the 26-year-old Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-5, 6-2 to frank the impression she has already given of being a future major winner. "I think grass suits my game and it rewards a player who takes it early and tries to move forward," said Bouchard, who reached the semi-finals in both previous grand slams this year. "Every time I go to the net I have a pretty good ratio of success. I'm trying to do that more and more. I think that will help me perform well on grass over the years."
Madison Keys, the 19-year-old American, also marched on, defeating Klara Koukalova 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2. The world No.30 is the youngest player in the top 30 and won at Eastbourne last week. Her rise has been sensational, going from No.149 to No.37 between the ends of 2012 and 2013. Ten years after Sharapova won at 17, there is a teenager in with a chance. "It's not nearly as overwhelming as the first time I was here. I am just getting more and more comfortable with it," she said of Wimbledon. "I am embracing every match that I get to play here because Wimbledon's definitely one of my favourite tournaments; just the history behind the whole tournament."
She said she had fulfilled a childhood dream by playing in the tournament but her serve has the capacity to induce nightmares in opponents.
Keys, from Boca Raton, Florida, finished fourth last year in terms of total aces served (225) on the women's tour and knows she possesses a weapon that can be particularly potent on grass. "There's so many people who have big serves - Lisicki, Serena. Maybe down the road hopefully I can be someone for someone to look up to and say they want to have a serve like me. Right now I'm just really focused on getting my serve better and better."
But experience still exerts an influence in the draw. Vera Zvonareva of Russia, at 29, saw off the 17-year-old Croat Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-4, and Sabine Lisicki, last year's finalist, beat the 22-year-old Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5.
Sharapova is scheduled to meet Serena Williams in the quarter-finals but the French Open champion was coy about any future clash. "I haven't had a chance to watch too many of her matches. But it doesn't really matter. She's been here. She's done it many, many times," Sharapova said. "If we do get to the stage of playing against each other, first of all, I'll be happy to be in that stage.
"We played each other many times. I haven't had the best results against her. I always look forward to that opportunity and the challenge to play against the best, try something a little bit different to try to get a win out there."
Williams restricted herself to the observation that she was playing better, and feeling more comfortable about her game. She showed that in her 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
The road to the final heads directly through Sharapova. It will be a tough trek for both but one must fall by the wayside. There is opportunity yet for the young class of 2014.