Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova has already "paid the price" according to the LTA Getty


  • Maria Sharapova has already 'paid the price' for her drug ban according to the LTA.
  • Sharapova's 15-month ban for testing positive for meldonium ended in April.

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova has received a wild card from the Lawn Tennis Association for the upcoming Aegon Classic in Birmingham that takes place from 19 June to 25 June.

The 30-year-old, who returned in April from a 15-month ban after testing positive for meldonium, could not gain entry by right as her world ranking of 211 was too low.

Sharapova was recently denied a wild card into the French Open and has been under scrutiny since her return with the amount of wild cards she was getting.

However, the LTA, who previously revealed in March that the Russian had not been offered any wild cards, have decided to cash in on the former Wimbledon champion.

In exchange for the wild card, Sharapova will play at the pre-Wimbledon tournament again next year with no appearance fees.

"Some may question the moral compass of this decision," LTA chief executive Michael Downey said, as quoted on The Times. "We do not. She made a mistake that we do not condone. She has paid the price through her 15-month ban and now can return to action."

"We did not take this decision lightly but — like all other WTA [Women's Tennis Association] events before ours — have granted her a wild card so our Birmingham event can benefit British fans who can take in her matches on home soil.

"And an important consequence of this decision will be the generation of more funds, which we will redeploy into our mission of getting more people to play tennis more often in 2017, again in 2018 and hopefully for many years to come."

As a result, the LTA have followed the likes of Stuttgart, Rome and Madrid in granting Sharapova a wild card in an effort to increase ticket sales and media interest.

Sharapova, who won in Birmingham in 2004 and 2005, expressed her gratitude: "I am 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."

"I have some great memories of playing there, 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."