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Maria Sharapova receives Aegon Classic wildcard

Former world number one Maria Sharapova will compete at Birmingham's Aegon Classic next month after being granted a wildcard entry for the next two years.

Maria Sharapova has been handed a wildcard entry to play at Birmingham's Aegon Classic for the next two years.

The former world number one was refused automatic entry to the French Open earlier this week, while her Wimbledon fate has left many divided.

Sharapova has slipped down the world rankings following a 15-month ban for breaching anti-doping rules, currently finding herself way down in 211th in the women's standings.

Many have been left divided over the Russian's potential pick for the main draw of July's Wimbledon, but one tournament that she will definitely be competing in is the Aegon Classic from June 19 to 25.

A deal has been struck with the Lawn Tennis Association to play in the event for the next two years, although she will not receive an appearance fee.

LTA chief Michael Downey said: "This wasn't a decision we took lightly and not everyone will agree with it. 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 wildcards to.

"Now Maria has earned direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying, we want to give British tennis fans the chance to see her compete on grass in Britain beforehand."

Sharapova, a two-time winner of the event, added: "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."

World number one Angelique Kerber will also compete in the tournament, which was won last year by Madison Keys.

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Newly appointed LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey poses during a press conference to unveil the new CEO of the LTA at the National Tennis Centre on September 24, 2013
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