LTA Grants Maria Sharapova Wild Card To Play In Main Draw At Aegon Classic
Maria Sharapova will compete in the main draw of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next month after the Lawn Tennis Association confirmed it gave her a wild card, according to Stuart Fraser of the LONDON TIMES. The Lawn Tennis Association has given Sharapova "one of the four available" wild cards after her ranking of No. 258 on May 8 was "too low to gain direct entry." In return, Sharapova has also agreed to commit to the '18 tournament. Michael Downey, the outgoing LTA CEO who will leave the organization at the end of June, "was the driving force behind the decision, made to increase ticket sales and boost media interest." The call to "roll out the red carpet for a doping offender" was reportedly "not well received by some key figures at the LTA," and Downey admitted in a statement that it will "prove divisive." Downey said in the statement, "This wasn't a decision we took lightly and we recognise not everyone will agree with it, however Maria has served her ban in full and is now back playing high quality tennis" (LONDON TIMES, 5/18).