Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been named as the first of seven main draw singles wild cards for this summer’s British WTA grass court events organized by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), organizers said on Thursday.
The former world No. 1 will play the Aegon Classic Birmingham for the first time in seven years, and has committed to playing both the 2017 and 2018 events.
Speaking about the announcement, LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey said: “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. In return we are providing Maria with a Main Draw wild card for this year.
“This wasn’t a decision we took lightly and we recognize not everyone will agree with it, however Maria has served her ban in full and is now back playing high quality tennis.
“There’s always a lot of debate about who we give wild cards to. 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. PNA/Xinhua