Sharapova receives wild card into pre-Wimbledon event

However, she won her first round fixture at the Rome Masters this week which assures a place in the qualifying tournament before Wimbledon.

The Russian is not eligible for a straight slot into the draws and her only other hope is through wildcard.

But the LTA has made a decision to grant her a wildcard for the event between the French Open and Wimbledon, and the two-time champion will now turn out for the event in Birmingham for the next two years.

Also, there will be 12 further wildcards for the qualifying events which will be confirmed ahead of the tournament, with these likely to be offered to eligible British players.

"And an important effect 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".

'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.

She will need to win three matches to earn a place in the first round of the tournament itself.

Sharapova has accumulated enough points already to enter Wimbledon qualifying but an All England Club sub-committee will meet on June 20 to decide which players will be fast-tracked into the first round proper.

The 2004 champion is now ranked 211 in the world, below the cut-off for direct entry, but her first-round win at this week's Italian Open means she is assured of a place in the qualifying tournament, played a few miles away from Wimbledon.

The five time Grand Slam champion was this week denied free entry into the main draw of the French Open following her 15 month drugs ban.

Sharapova, 30, retired from her second-round match at the Italian Open on Tuesday with a left thigh injury.

Earlier this week, the former top-ranked Russian had her request for a French Open wild card rejected by Roland Garros officials.

Some of her rivals on the women's tour have openly questioned her return last month from a ban for taking meldonium.