Birmingham Classic: Sharapova Included To Play On British Soil After 3yrs Doping Ban

Russian Tennis Star, Maria Sharapova/
The Russian Professional Tennis Star, Maria Sharapova, the two-time winner of the 2004 and 2005 Birmingham title has been included on Wednesday morning to play in the WTA’s Birmingham Classic Grass-cut Tournament by June.

The Telegraph (Tennis) – Maria Sharapova is set to play on British soil for the first time in three years, after her inclusion in the field for the Birmingham Classic was announced on Wednesday morning.

Last year, Sharapova was supposed to appear in Birmingham via a controversial wild card granted by Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey.

But a thigh injury sustained at the end of the clay-court season forced her to miss everything until the American hard-court swing.

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This year, Sharapova’s ranking of No. 42 in the world should at least spare the LTA the embarrassment of having to offer her another wild card. The contortions that Downey put himself through last year, when he sent a 700-word letter to stakeholders admitting that “not everyone will agree with the decision”, were extraordinary.

Clearly, Sharapova is not quite such a controversial figure now that she is coming towards the first anniversary of her return to the sport after her 15-month doping ban for meldonium.

She has served her time and worked her way up the rankings, even if a series of injuries have prevented her from putting together a sustained charge. She also has a record of seven previous appearances at Birmingham, the most recent coming in 2010.

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Sharapova won the title there in 2004 – the same year that she made herself a global phenomenon by defeating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final – and then successfully defended it the following season.

“I’m excited to return to play the Nature Valley Classic,” said Sharapova in a statement. “I feel like the fans in Birmingham and I go back a long way and I’ve got a lot of good memories of playing there.”

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