Maria Sharapova has been granted a wild card to play in the pre-Wimbledon tournament in Birmingham, two days after she was rejected by the French Open because of her recent doping ban.
Sharapova committed to the Aegon Classic for this year and next year in return for a wild card, British Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey said on Thursday.
“This wasn’t a decision we took lightly and we recognise not everyone will agree with it, however Maria has served her ban in full and is now back playing high-quality tennis,” Downey said.
The Aegon Classic begins on June 19, two weeks before Wimbledon.
Sharapova won the title in Birmingham in 2004 and 2005. She has not competed in the tournament for seven years.
Since the end of her 15-month doping ban last month, Sharapova has used wild-card entries to play three events on the main WTA tour to try and get her world ranking up to a level where she can automatically enter anywhere again.
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 French Open agreed, and decided on Tuesday not to give the two-time champion a wild card for the Grand Slam this month.
Her ranking, at no. 211 before she went two rounds at the Italian Open this week, was not good enough to make the French Open qualifying draw but good enough for Wimbledon qualifying.
An All England Club sub-committee will meet on June 20 to decide on wild cards for the main draw. Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004.
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