Maria Sharapova to enter Wimbledon qualifying tournament

The Russian star, who has only recently returned following a 15-month drug ban, has been given a wildcard for the event in the West Midlands next month after tumbling down the world rankings.

She was banned from the sport after testing positive for meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list at the start of 2016.

But Sharapova has now signed a two year deal with the Lawn Tennis Association to participate at Birmingham's Aegon Classic.

"I have some great memories of playing there over the years, including winning the title on two previous occasions".

"In return we are providing Maria with a main draw wildcard for this year".

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".

The Aegon Classic begins on June 19, two weeks before Wimbledon.

Maria Sharapova will play in the Wimbledon qualifying tournament.

Sharapova's won against Christina McHale in the first round of the Italian Open 2017 tennis tournament earlier this month, thus making it to the inaugural stages of Wimbledon or the qualifying rounds.

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 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.

"All players receive ranking points and prize money and there is more money and ranking points on offer the more matches that they win", said Wimbledon's website.

Maria Sharapova of Russian Federation relaxes during a pause of her match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Ironically, the last time Sharapova was forced to qualify for an event was at the Birmingham tournament in 2003.

Sharapova last played at Wimbledon in 2015, when she lost in straight sets to Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

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