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Maria Sharapova ends Wimbledon wildcard speculation by entering Roehampton qualifying tournament

21 May 2017

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion who won Wimbledon in 2004, returned last month from a 15-month doping ban.

Maria Sharapova announces that she will attempt to secure her place at Wimbledon through the qualifying round rather than requesting a wildcard.

The Aegon Classic in Birmingham has now offered Sharapova the chance to fine-tune her grass court game after she committed to appear there next year as well. "I am so grateful and excited to be playing this event again!" she said.

Wimbledon qualifying provides 16 main draw places for men and 12 for women if they win through three rounds.

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Sharapova guaranteed she would be clear to enter the Wimbledon qualifiers by winning a first-round match against American Christina McHale at the Italian Open on Monday, before retiring injured in the third set against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni a day later.

In the statement, Sharapova also said that she is healing from the injury sustained in Rome a few days ago, and that she will return to training as soon as she is better.

Grand Slam officials traditionally extend wild-card invitations to well-known players who have not met the qualifying requirements for reasons such as injury.

It meant she needed a favor from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but in an unexpected development, especially as the French Open is already without pregnant Serena Williams and resting Roger Federer, it took a moral stand that will please some of her rivals but could hit the tournament's ratings.

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Wimbledon's wildcard committee meets on June 20 but Sharapova has backed herself to come through the preliminaries.

At the Italian Open this week, she retired in her second-round match after injuring her left thigh.

"[Her] suspension is over and she can take her path toward new success".

She has denied using it for any performance-enhancing goal, and an initial two-year ban was cut on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which concluded that while she committed an anti-doping violation there was "no significant fault" on her part.

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Maria Sharapova will have to win three qualifying matches to advance to Wimbledon.