Nerves, new homes, replica trophies & joining legends

a3smallThe last time I came back to Wimbledon as the defending champion I really felt the pressure, and I’m sure it will be the same on Tuesday.

I was very nervous in 2012 and didn’t feel comfortable because I’d only played one match on the grass in Eastbourne, but I coped OK and managed to play quite well before losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. There will be a lot of nerves again this time but I hope that experience helps me. Every year is different. This time I haven’t played any matches on grass because I got sick in Eastbourne, but I actually think that’s better than having lost in the first round there. At least I don’t feel negative about my game, and hopefully I will be 100% by the time I step on Centre Court at 1pm to play Kiki Bertens  [ranked 108] of the Netherlands.

Finding my feet on grass – a triumphant debut

I couldn’t feel any more uncomfortable than I did when I first stepped on a grass court in 2007, and yet I still went on to win the tournament. It was a junior event in Roehampton when I was 17 and the whole experience was really strange. I didn’t know what I should do but my game worked well on the grass, and I won six matches in a row.

Things didn’t go quite so well on my Wimbledon debut a couple of weeks later when I lost in the round of 16 in the girls’ singles, and in my first senior matches in 2008 and 2009 I didn’t play well. I was a little bit uncertain on the grass. It’s the feeling that it’s not solid underfoot, a bit softer and the footwork is a bit difficult. I also didn’t have the strong legs I have now; it’s a bit about how you work out. I didn’t play the game I should at that time but I was young and didn’t have experience. I finally found a way in 2011.

‘The replica is smaller than the real trophy’

By the time you get back to the locker room after winning Wimbledon, they have taken the trophy away, and you only get another glimpse of it at the champions’ dinner on the Sunday. You have to make do with a replica, which is about three-quarters the size of the real thing. I’m lucky enough to have two of them! My parents look after them, and all my trophies. I think it’s pretty special for them. Winning Wimbledon in 2011 was a bit of a surprise for everyone, including me. It was like I was in a dream and I didn’t realise what it meant. Last year I was a lot more experienced but it’s never easy. To win a Grand Slam you have to win seven matches in a row and it’s very different physically and mentally from other tournaments. Last year was especially difficult because I played three Czech girls in a row, and they are all good friends. That’s not easy but, for sure, I had improved not only as a tennis player but as a person and I was glad for the experience I had in 2011.

‘A home away from home’ in the village

I love the traditions and the history of Wimbledon, but unfortunately I don’t get to indulge in too many strawberries and cream – last year I had one strawberry! When you enter the gates of the All England Club you can feel the history of tennis. It’s the oldest and the best tournament in the world, and the one everybody wants to win. We rent a house every year and stay in Wimbledon village, which is amazing. You can walk into the club if you want and it feels like being at home, in your own house, where you can cook, put music on and just relax. I’m staying somewhere new this year but I won 2011 and 2014 in different houses, so I’m considering that good luck.

‘To join the legends would be incredible’

Of course I want to play well and do my best but I don’t compare myself with the legends of the game, I have a long way to go. To join the likes of Chris Evert  and Maria Bueno on three Wimbledon titles would be incredible but I know how tough it is. I’ll do my best, we’ll see. I’m certainly very proud to carry on the great tradition of Czech players. Probably Martina Navratilova is the biggest legend but I know many other Czechs played so well at Wimbledon, like Jan Kodes  [who won the men’s singles title in 1973]. I have a good friendship with Martina and it’s nice to catch up with her and talk sometimes. The Czechs have a great history but we are glad to have so many players with a high ranking right now – I think nine women in the top 100,  [second only to the United States, with 12]. It’s great for the kids to see on TV, who then maybe pick up a racquet. I don’t really think about my place within that history right now but maybe when I finish it will be a bit different.

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Petra Kvitova was talking to BBC Sport’s Piers Newbery