Sharapova to enter Wimbledon qualifying
- Author: Rosalie Stanley May 20, 2017,
May 20, 2017, 0:41
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.
Sharapova was handed a two-year ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
Maria Sharapova in a statement said that she won't request a wildcard into this year's Wimbledon due to her "improved ranking" and she would playing in the qualifiers.
Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey said: "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". I am so grateful and excited to be playing the event again!
The Russian was overlooked for a wildcard for the French Open - both in the main draw and qualifying - and so will next feature at the grass court event.
This week, she was refused a wild card for the French Open, with French Tennis Federation [FFT] president Bernard Giudicelli saying: "'There can be a wild card for the return from injuries; there cannot be a wild card for the return from doping".
Wimbledon chiefs will wait until June 20, just days ahead of the qualifying event, before deciding whether to give her a wildcard.
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.
The five-time grand slam tournament victor will climb into the top 200 on Monday, high enough to earn a trip to London, albeit for a Wimbledon match programme that will begin earlier than usual.
The Russian has accepted wild cards to enter all three of her tournaments since her return, attracting criticism from many players.
Andy Murray has been clear in his view that returning offenders should have to work their way back up and the same opinion has been expressed by a number of players on the WTA Tour.
The French Open draw was already missing one of its biggest stars as the pregnant Serena Williams takes time out before the birth of her first child.