Andy Murray: Maria Sharapova likely to get Wimbledon wildcard

Andy Murray
World number one Andy Murray will defend his Aegon Championship title at Queen's Club next month following the French Open

World number one Andy Murray expects Maria Sharapova to receive a wildcard for Wimbledon qualifying if she does not make it through her ranking.

The Russian, 30, returned to action in Stuttgart last month after a 15-month doping ban.

She needs an invitation to compete at this month's French Open and, with her ranking of 262, at Wimbledon in July.

"I think there's a good chance Wimbledon would give her one to get into qualifiers," Murray said.

"I'm not sure what they will do but I'm sure they are hoping they don't have to make the decision," the 29-year-old Briton told national newspapers.

"There's a good chance that she can get in by right, which I'm sure is what she's hoping for and that's what Wimbledon would be hoping for."

The All England Club has said "no decisions on any players will be taken" until the scheduled wildcard meeting on 20 June.

Wimbledon's qualifying tournament, which takes place from 26-29 June at the the Bank of England Sports Grounds in Roehampton, will be ticketed and carry video coverage of one court for the first time.

Sharapova needs to be closer to the top 200 for direct entry into Wimbledon qualifying and can improve her ranking at upcoming events in Madrid and Rome, which have also taken the decision to award her wildcards.

The five-time Grand Slam champion was suspended in 2016 after testing positive for heart disease drug meldonium, and reached the semi-finals on her return to action in Stuttgart.

She needed to reach the final in Germany to make the world's top 200 and be eligible for French Open qualifying, but defeat by Kristina Mladenovic in the last four pegged her ranking at 262.

The French tennis federation is set to announce its decision regarding a wildcard for Sharapova on 16 May.

Grand Slams face a "different decision" from smaller tournaments over this issue, according to Murray.

"Loads and loads of press went to Stuttgart to cover the event - whereas the Slams don't need that coverage," the Scot said.

"It probably doesn't change their event much either way, so they have a different decision to make."

Murray said the French Open and Wimbledon can do "whatever they want" regarding wildcards but added "there is something to be said for working your way back up" the rankings.

"[Sharapova's] playing at a level where she's capable of winning a tournament like Stuttgart already - it would be a three-, four-week period before she'd be competing at the biggest events again," he said.

"To reach the semis in the first tournament back shows that very soon she's going to be back up at the top of the game. It will be a matter of months."

Murray added, however, that he "wouldn't imagine" Sharapova's form would have any bearing on a Grand Slam tournament's decision to issue a wildcard.

The decision to assist Sharapova's return to the WTA Tour has been criticised by rival players, with 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard branding the former world number one "a cheat" who should not have been allowed to play again.

'My elbow is always sore'

Andy Murray
Murray lost to Dominic Thiem at the Barcelona Open, his second tournament back after injury

Having missed Great Britain's Davis Cup quarter-final defeat by France with an elbow injury before returning in Monte Carlo, Murray continued his comeback at the Barcelona Open where he was beaten by Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals.

He will next compete on clay at the Madrid Open, starting on Monday, followed by the Italian Open on 15 May.

"My elbow is always sore, so that's nothing to do with the injury - for the last three or four years, it's always been a bit stiff," said Murray, speaking at The Queen's Club, where he will defend his Aegon Championship title next month.

"It was great in Barcelona for the amount of tennis I played - I pushed it, playing three hours and then having to come back the next day and play again, and the elbow felt really good.

"I just need to start serving better which hopefully will happen over the next few weeks."

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