It comes two days after the Russian former World No 1 was refused a wildcard for the French Open following her 15-month ban for doping. Next month will see 2004 Wimbledon champion Sharapova, 30, play the
She is guaranteed a spot in qualifying for
“I am really excited to be coming back to
“I have some great memories of playing there over the years, including winning the title on two previous occasions.”
Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey accepted “not everyone will agree” with the decision to give Sharapova a wildcard for Birmingham. Some of her rivals on the women’s tour have openly questioned her return last month from a ban for taking meldonium.
“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,” said
“In return, we are providing Maria with a main draw wildcard for this year.
“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.”
Sharapova returned from her doping ban on April 26, but relied on wildcards to get into tournaments because her world ranking points expired while she was banned.AFP