Aegon Classic champion Petra Kvitova loves playing on grass - and she is looking forward to returning to Wimbledon.
Mark Hodgkinson

BIRMINGHAM, England - Stiff, starchy and buttoned-up, with public displays of emotion supposedly as welcome as a tie-dye T-shirt on court. That caricature of Wimbledon should be consigned to history. For one thing, just consider the effect the place has on Petra Kvitova. 

For Kvitova, playing on the lawns of the All England Club has long been an emotional experience. There's her deep, enduring love of grass-court tennis. There are also the memories of the two titles she won, in 2011 and 2014. And this summer playing at Wimbledon promises to be more emotional than ever before, as she makes her way back from an attack at her apartment in the Czech Republic in December which left her with knife wounds to her left hand, the one she holds her racket with. 

'Always smiling,' it says on Kvitova's Twitter biography, and if tennis players were going to be displayed as emojis it wouldn't take long to pick one for her. One mention of Wimbledon and she holds that smiley face for the rest of the conversation.

"I get emotional every time I step inside the All England Club," Kvitova said at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, the tournament she won so memorably on Sunday. 

"Wimbledon is just special - you can't compare it to other tournaments. And, for me, I also have all the memories from winning the title twice. Playing on the grass there is just very special. After everything that has happened, I think it will feel even more emotional going there this year." 

Playing Wimbledon this summer was a strong motivation during her rehabilitation, when there was some doubt about her tennis future.

"When everything happened, and when I was trying to come back to tennis, I was really wishing that I would like to come back to play Wimbledon. I made my comeback at Roland Garros but it's even better than I can return and play at Wimbledon," said Kvitova, who won a round on her return to competitive tennis at the French Open. 

"From the beginning, Wimbledon was the tournament that was in my mind, that was the one I wanted to play. I didn't want to lose out on playing Wimbledon this year. For me, Wimbledon is in my heart. It's the biggest one. It's even better that I already played in Paris, as at Wimbledon I won't feel the same pressures that I would have done if that was my first Grand Slam back." 

Some players like to replay their greatest moments by firing up YouTube. For Kvitova, there's no need to seek out video highlights of those Wimbledon triumphs when she already has the cinema in her head, with the memories of her titles still so clear. Sometimes, and seemingly without a trigger, those Wimbledon memories suddenly come back to her. 

"One day at home, I was driving to practice in the car and the memories suddenly came back. I was thinking about the celebrations when I won in 2014. It's nice that it came to my mind like that. It just suddenly came into my head. What I remember most of all were the celebrations with my close ones, with my family and friends. Those are always the best moments as my family and friends are always there for me as they are helping me all year round," she said.

"So, actually, I don't watch those Wimbledon tournaments on video. Sometimes I watch videos of myself playing other tournaments, but not really the Wimbledon ones. Maybe I'm going to save those videos for an important time." 

No two Wimbledon titles can ever be the same and Kvitova thinks very differently about the two occasions she was presented with the Venus Rosewater Dish. "In 2011, I was very surprised. Nobody, not even me, expected me to win so I was happy and I didn't know exactly how everything was going and how it all was in the mind and how I was feeling. I won and then I was like, 'OK, what now?' 

"In 2014, I appreciated and enjoyed it even more. It felt deeper, more special, I was happier and I had kind of been favourite most of the time during the tournament. I was prouder of myself for winning in 2014 than I had been in 2011."

Playing on grass simply makes Kvitova happy. "I just love grass. It feels like home. I love the movement on grass. I love the flat shots, I love the serve and volley, and the drop shots and the slice," Kvitova said. "I love everything about it."