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Wimbledon keeps Sharapova guessing on wildcard entry

Former champion Maria Sharapova’s hopes of playing at this year’s Wimbledon championships could hinge on a June 20 meeting of tournament organisers unless the Russian hits form in forthcoming events in Madrid and Rome.

Sharapova, who returned last week after a 15-month ban for an anti-doping violation, could still climb high enough in the WTA rankings to earn a spot in the main draw or Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament at Roehampton the week before.

Failing that the 2004 champion’s participation would be at the mercy of the Wimbledon wildcard committee.

“We have a long-standing tried and tested process (for awarding wildcards) in the week before qualifying and this year is no different,” All England Club chairman Philip Brook said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“First we will see if Maria applies for a wildcard and if so we will consider her case alongside everyone else’s.

“It will be a decision for the group on the day.”

Sharapova reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart last week as a wildcard entrant, playing her first tournament since her ban for taking the prohibited substance Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. Her world ranking rose to 262.

The cut-off date to get back around the top 100, which usually ensures direct entry into the main draw, is May 22, the day after the conclusion of the Rome tournament in which Sharapova has been handed another wildcard.

If she falls short of the main draw, Sharapova could still climb high enough up the rankings to make Wimbledon’s qualifying event. The cut-off date for that is June 5, in the middle of the French Open.

A strong performance from the former world number in Rome, and in Madrid the week before where she has also been handed a wildcard, would spare the All England Club a tough decision as she could return to Wimbledon on merit.

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