Maria Sharapova granted Birmingham wild card

She has signed a two year deal to take part in the tournament

It has been confirmed that Maria Sharapova has a wild card for the pre-Wimbledon Birmingham Classic next month.

The former World No 1 tennis player recently returned to competitive tennis after a 15 month drugs ban.

Her ranking is not yet good enough to reach the main draw of Wimbledon so she will need to go through the qualifying rounds which take place the week after the Birmingham event.

Sharapova was denied a wild card for the French Open this week, in a move which was questioned by WTA chief Steve Simon who said: "I don't agree with the basis for the decision put forward by the FFT. She has complied with the sanction".

But Sharapova has now signed a two year deal with the Lawn Tennis Association to participate at Birmingham's Aegon Classic.

"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," said LTA chief executive Michael Downey in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sharapova commented: "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.

"I have some great memories of playing there over the years, 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."