Maria Sharapova to enter Wimbledon qualifying tournament

Sharapova granted Birmingham wildcard

Sharapova granted Birmingham wildcard

The 30-year-old returned from a 15-month doping ban last month and has failed to gain a high enough ranking for automatic entry into the 128-strong main draw.

"I am really excited to be coming back to Birmingham this year to play on the grass as part of my build up to Wimbledon and I thank the LTA for this opportunity", said Sharapova.

British Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey says Sharapova committed to the Aegon Classic for this year and next year in return for a wild card.

Five-time grand slam champion Sharapova has been given a wildcard by the LTA to enter the tournament and will also play the grass-court event in 2018 after agreeing a two-year deal.

"I have already started getting treatment on the injury I sustained a few days ago in Rome, and will begin my preparation as soon I get better", Sharapova announced today.

The Birmingham event at the Edgbaston Priory club runs June 17-25, with Wimbledon commencing on July 3.

"There's always a lot of debate about who we give wild cards to".

"And an important outcome of this decision will be the generation of more funds, which we will redeploy into our mission of getting more people to play tennis more often in 2017, again in 2018 and hopefully for many years to come".

Then, after defeating Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in her opening match in Madrid, she came up against Eugenie Bouchard, a Canadian who said Sharapova was a "cheater" and should be banned for life for doping.

There had been question marks whether the qualifying tournament in Roehampton could handle the added demands of such a global star participating but organisers are confident of hosting her. Said the former World number one, Sharapova.

Having retired injured in her second round match, however, she will miss the ranking cut-off for a main draw entry and would need a wildcard from the All England Committee on June 20 to avoid having to win three rounds of qualifying.

Sharapova's attempts to secure a wildcard for this month's French Open were rejected by the French Tennis Federation this week.

Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the sanction to 15 months, saying she was not an "intentional doper".

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