Maria Sharapova to miss Wimbledon qualifying through injury

Maria Sharapova
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner who is now ranked 178 in the world, had been offered a wildcard for next week's Aegon Classic

Maria Sharapova will be unable to compete in Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton because of injury.

The five-time Grand Slam champion has not played since retiring with a thigh problem from her second-round match at the Italian Open on 16 May.

The Russian, 30, is hoping to return at the end of July, by which time the grass court season will have ended.

She returned in April after a 15-month doping ban and had a wildcard for next week's Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton starts on 26 June with the championships proper beginning on July 3.

As a result of missing the entire grass court season, she will not be ranked highly enough to gain direct entry into the US Open.

As at Wimbledon, she will be eligible for qualifying - but will need a wildcard from the USTA if she is to automatically make the main draw.

Sharapova, confirmed her injury news on Facebook, writing: "After an additional scan, the muscle tear that I sustained in Rome will unfortunately not allow me to compete in the grass court tournaments I was scheduled to play.

"I will continue to work on my recovery and my next scheduled tournament is in Stanford."

The Bank of the West Classic in Stanford begins on 30 July.

Sharapova is currently ranked 178 in the world, having fallen out of the top 500 since testing positive for heart disease drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

She was denied a wildcard for the French Open, with tournament officials saying her doping suspension counted against her.

Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey previously acknowledged the decision to grant Sharapova a wildcard for Birmingham would divide opinion.

But he had argued it would "generate more funds" and boost a tournament which has "for too long lived under the shadow" of the men's Aegon Championships at The Queen's Club, which takes place in the same week.

Sharapova signed a two-year deal to play in the Birmingham event last month.

Analysis

Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent:

The LTA had hoped to use Sharapova's presence in Birmingham to drive ticket sales and increase the profile of the tournament, but the All England Club are likely to be more phlegmatic about the 30-year-old's absence.

They had already announced plans to ticket the qualifying competition at nearby Roehampton and build a small stand around a show court. But enhanced security would have been required and the limited facilities severely tested by greatly increased media interest.

The injury will cost Sharapova at least two and a half months away from the tour and ensure the wildcard debate rolls on for another couple of months. She will only be ranked high enough to gain direct entry into US Open qualifying, which means the USTA will have to offer her a wildcard if they want to guarantee her presence in the main draw.

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