Maria Sharapova to enter Wimbledon qualifying tournament

Sharapova granted Birmingham wildcard

The 30-year-old returned last month from a 15-month doping ban, but has not yet managed to earn a high enough ranking to enter directly into the main Wimbledon draw.

Maria Sharapova has announced she will not seek a wild card into Wimbledon's main draw and will instead play the qualifying rounds to secure her place.

Although Sharapova won three matches at the WTA Tour Porsche Tennis Grand Prix before Kristina Mladenovic knocked her out in the semifinals, Eugenie Bouchard bested her in the second round of the Madrid Open.

Sharapova was handed a two-year ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

But Sharapova has now signed a two year deal with the Lawn Tennis Association to participate at Birmingham's Aegon Classic. I am so grateful and excited to be playing this event again!

But the LTA has chose to grant her a wildcard for the event between the French Open and Wimbledon, and the two-time champion will now turn out for the event in Birmingham for the next two years.

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Players, including No. 1s Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, have been outspoken about Sharapova receiving free passes into events in the light of her doping ban, as opposed to coming back from an injury.

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.

Earlier this week, the former top-ranked Russian had her request for a French Open wild card rejected by Roland Garros officials. Wimbledon donates a large share of its profits to the LTA but the grand slam oversees its own tournament independently of the governing body.

Sharapova needed to reach at least the semi-finals of the Italian Open to qualify for the main draw of Wimbledon 2017.

She has denied using it for any performance-enhancing goal, and an initial two-year ban was cut on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which concluded that while she committed an anti-doping violation there was "no significant fault" on her part.

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