Sharapova accepts Birmingham wildcard

Maria Sharapova has accepted a wildcard to play at the Aegon Classic Birmingham 2017 and agreed to play at the event for the next two years amid heated debate as to whether she should be granted entrance to the main draw at Wimbledon.

"However Maria has served her ban in full and is now back playing high quality tennis".

Now the LTA appear firmly on Sharapova's side, that may work in her favour when the All England Club sub-committee meet on June 20 to decide which players will be fast-tracked into the first round proper of Wimbledon.

"I am really excited to be coming back to Birmingham this year to play on the grass as part of my build-up to Wimbledon and I thank the LTA for this opportunity", said Sharapova in a statement.

Controversy has surrounded Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam women's singles champion, since she came back from her drugs ban last month.

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.

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The Russian was excluded from Roland Garros by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) after failing to make the cut for qualifiers following her return from a 15-month doping ban.

A deal has been struck with the Lawn Tennis Association to play in the event for the next two years, although she will not receive an appearance fee.

Sharapova will have to win through three qualifying rounds to earn a spot in Wimbledon's 128-strong main draw.

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

"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".

Sharapova this week responded to her French Open wildcard snub with a defiant Twitter message, saying: "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday".

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