Maria Sharapova to enter Wimbledon qualifying tournament

Tennis- WTA- Rome Open- Maria Sharapova of Russia v Mirjana Lucic Baroni of Croatia- Rome Italy- 16/5/17 Sharapova serves the ball. R

Sharapova was initially banned for two years after testing positive for then newly-banned heart condition drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova will not request a wildcard for the main draw of Wimbledon and will instead begin her campaign at SW19 through qualifying.

LTA chief executive Michael Downey, who is to step down this summer, 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 have some great memories of playing there over the years, including winning the title on two previous occasions".

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.

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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While this ended her hopes of qualifying on merit for Wimbledon's main draw, a decision on whether she is granted a main draw spot will be taken on June 20, according to reports.

The 30-year-old, whose chances of climbing high enough up the Women's Tennis Association rankings to make the automatic Wimbledon draw were scotched when she pulled out of this week's Italian Open with injury, has made a decision to take matters into her own hands by attempting to win the Roehampton qualifying tournament. Wimbledon donates a large share of its profits to the LTA but the grand slam oversees its own tournament independently of the governing body.

Shortly thereafter, Sharapova was forced to withdraw from the Italian Open in the middle of her second-round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni due to a thigh injury.

The Russian has accepted wild cards to enter all three of her tournaments since her return, attracting criticism from many players. Wimbledon's website states wild cards are typically offered "on the basis of past performance at Wimbledon or to increase British interest".

Sharapova will take part in the Birmingham based event.

Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova says she will not request a wildcard into this year's championships and will attempt to qualify.

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