Sharapova granted Birmingham wildcard

Doug Mendoza
May 19, 2017

The Lawn Tennis Association admitted that it has not questioned the morality of giving doping offender Maria Sharapova a wildcard into its pre-Wimbledon event in Birmingham.

LTA chief executive Michael Downey has admitted it is a controversial decision, but feels Sharapova has served her punishment and fans deserve to see her in action in Birmingham.

"This wasn't a decision we took lightly and we recognize not everyone will agree with it, however Maria has served her ban in full and is now back playing high-quality tennis".

"We have received a two-year commitment from one of the most famous athletes in the world, Maria Sharapova, to play the Aegon Classic Birmingham", said Downey, after the Russian confirmed she would play there in 2017 and 2018.

The 2004 champion is ranked 211, below the cut-off for direct entry, although her first-round win at this week's Italian Open means she is assured a place in the qualifying tournament played a few miles away from Wimbledon.

"I have some great memories of playing there over the years, including winning the title on two previous occasions".

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.

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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.

Sharapova desperately needs to work on her ranking to qualify for Wimbledon.

Sharapova has slipped down the world rankings following a 15-month ban for breaching anti-doping rules, now finding herself way down in 211th in the women's standings.

British number one Johanna Konta, world number one Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep will also be competing in Birmingham.

Sharapova has accumulated enough points already to enter Wimbledon qualifying but an All England Club sub-committee will meet on June 20 to decide which players will be fast-tracked into the first round proper.

"I am looking forward to seeing all the recent improvements the tournament has made to establish itself as one the best grass court events in the world".

Other reports by GizPress

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