Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Sharapova gets wildcard for Birmingham classic

Since returning from her 15-month doping ban last month, Sharapova has played in three events on the WTA tour in an attempt to get her world ranking to a level where she can automatically enter into any event, including the Grand Slams, once again.

Sharapova will also be at the tournament next year, with the event seen as one of the build-ups to Wimbledon.

"This wasn't a decision we took lightly and not everyone will agree with it", said LTA chief Michael Downey.

"Now Maria has earned direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying, we want to give British tennis fans the chance to see her compete on grass in Britain beforehand".

Sharapova, who won women's singles silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was handed a two-year ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova of Russian Federation celebrates winning the singles match against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday July 6.

A deal has been struck with the Lawn Tennis Association to play in the event for the next two years, although she will not receive an appearance fee.

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Sharapova retired injured from her match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome on Tuesday after beating American Christina McHale to reach the second round.

Wimbledon's wildcard committee, which meets on June 20, could have granted a wildcard to the former world number one.

Organisers at Wimbledon however are expected to follow their contemporaries at the French Open and not give Sharapova a wild card for this summer's tournament.

Johanna Konta crashed out of the Italian Open yesterday at the third-round stage losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in just under two hours to Venus Williams. The British No 1, pictured, was facing the American veteran for the first time since March, when victory sent her into the final in Miami.

Qualifying in Roehampton will be ticketed for the first time this year.

"She made a mistake that we do not condone".

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