Eastbourne holds a special place in the heart of world number eight Petra Kvitova, who hopes to recapture the happy memories she created here in 2011.
Kvitova reached the final at Devonshire Park the year before last but eventually lost out to Marion Bartoli in a three-set thriller. Despite the initial disappointment, the 23-year-old went on to claim the prestigious Wimbledon title a week later.
Kvitova believes that supplies the proof, if ever it was needed, about how necessary warm-up tournaments are heading into a Grand Slam and hopes to do well enough here this year to provide her with the best possible chance of a repeat victory at SW19.
She said, “I remember 2011 when I played here for the first time and it helped me a lot to play well in Wimbledon. I had great matches in my bag and that helped me.
“I’m feeling quite good this year. I’m healthy, which is the most important thing for me. Playing some matches on the grass before Wimbledon is important, to have some confidence before I go.
“I have some nice memories from this tournament so I hope I can replay it.
“I came here on Wednesday and I’ve practiced already. It went quite well but there was a little bit of wind, a little bit of rain but it’s always a bit similar so I’m used to it. Of course I’m looking forward to the matches.
“It’s beautiful to be very close to the hotel and on site, so it’s very nice and very comfy for us. I like the city, I like the crowd here and I love the grass so for me, it is very special.”
Despite success in 2011, Kvitova was knocked out in the first round of last year’s Devonshire Park tournament to Ekaterina Makarova and is wary of slipping up at the first hurdle again this year.
The Czech said, “It is quite a tough draw, the first rounds are quite tough too, from the beginning. It’s quite a strong tournament but that makes it good preparation for Wimbledon. The grass here is very great so that’s why they are coming here.
“I’m focusing on myself and my game so that’s the important thing for me.
“The first practice on the grass is always different. It’s faster, you have to stay more down, more low - it’s totally different but I prefer playing on grass.”