Sharapova handed Birmingham wildcard spot

Maria Sharapova has been handed a wildcard entry into next month’s Aegon Classic – the warm-up tournament for Wimbledon.

Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association have confirmed that Sharapova will play at the competition in Birmingham, even though the former world number one is yet to secure a place at Wimbledon.

Earlier this week, Sharapova learned that she would not be handed a wildcard entry to the French Open after several players stressed their opposition towards the 30-year-old getting a chance at the end of a 15-month doping ban.

But the organisers of the Aegon Classic have decided to give Sharapova an opportunity after she confirmed her participation for the next two years.

“This wasn't a decision we took lightly and we recognize not everyone will agree with it,” said LTA chief executive Michael Downey.

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

“Now that Maria has earned direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying, we want to give British tennis fans the chance to see her compete on grass here in Britain beforehand."

Sharapova will have to win three rounds of Wimbledon qualifying to earn a place in the main draw, unless she is handed a wildcard entry.

"I am really excited to be coming back to Birmingham as part of my build-up to Wimbledon and I thank the LTA for this opportunity,” said Sharapova.