Maria Sharapova to play Wimbledon qualifiers rather than requesting wildcard

Maria Sharapova returns the ball to Christina Mc Hale during their match at the ATP Tennis Open tournament

Maria Sharapova has announced she will not seek a wild card into Wimbledon's main draw and will instead play the qualifying rounds to secure her place.

After serving a 15-month suspension for using the banned substance meldonium, the former Wimbledon victor is ranked 211th in the world and does not have enough points to make the tournament's main draw.

Early previous year, Sharapova announced that doping tests revealed the presence of the banned performance enhancing drug, meldonium, in her body.

Although Sharapova won three matches at the WTA Tour Porsche Tennis Grand Prix before Kristina Mladenovic knocked her out in the semifinals, Eugenie Bouchard bested her in the second round of the Madrid Open.

Several players have voiced their disapproval at Sharapova's return, most noticeably Canada's Eugenie Bouchard who said Sharapova should have been banned for life, calling her a "cheater". The five-time Grand Slam victor had plummeted to 211.

The Lawn Tennis Association have confirmed they have accepted a request from Maria Sharapova to play at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next month.

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The LTA's call to grant the World No.211 a free pass for the Aegon Classic, which runs from June 19-25, is likely to draw criticism from those that believe players suspended for doping should not be given privileges.

The Wimbledon qualifying event, at the Bank of England Sports Grounds, will be ticketed for the first time this year, and there will be a live broadcast from one court.

After sitting out a provisional 15-month suspension, Sharapova, 30, made an impressive comeback last month at the tennis tournament in Stuttgart knocking out all of her opponents up to the semifinals.

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.

Ironically, the last time Sharapova was forced to qualify for an event was at the Birmingham tournament in 2003. She has paid the price through her 15-month ban and now can return to action.

The grass-court Grand Slam was where Sharapova won her first major tournament, beating Serena Williams in a one-sided final in 2004 when she was only 17.

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