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Maria Sharapova to play at Birmingham's Aegon Classic in 2017 and 2018

Maria Sharapova to play at Birmingham's Aegon Classic

18/05/2017 at 22:14Updated 18/05/2017 at 23:51

Maria Sharapova has been handed a wildcard to Birmingham’s Aegon Classic in June and also committed to the event in 2018.

The Russian was overlooked for a wildcard for the French Open – both in the main draw and qualifying – and so will next feature at the grass court event.

It is a controversial decision, given the 30-year-old’s recent return from a 15-month doping ban for meldonium in 2015.

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

"I have some great memories of playing there over the years, including winning the title on two previous occasions. I am looking forward to seeing all the recent improvements the tournament has made to establish itself as one of the best grass court events in the world."

Sharapova has already gained direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying at the end of June.

"This wasn't a decision we took lightly and not everyone will agree with it," said Lawn Tennis Association chief Michael Downey.

"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."

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a backhand in her match against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a backhand in her match against Eugenie Bouchard of CanadaGetty Images

Sharapova joins world number one Angelique Kerber, British number one Johanna Konta, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep in Birmingham.

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