Maria Sharapova given huge boost in bid to qualify for Wimbledon

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Maria Sharapova has endured an expectedly rocky comeback to the WTA Tour since completing a 15-month ban for failing a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open.

The former world No. 1 has undoubtedly reaped the benefits of her high-profile since returning to the court after being granted wildcard entries to three prestigious tournaments.

Sharapova accepted a free pass to events in Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome and Birmingham while rejecting opportunities to play in Strasbourg and Nurnberg.

It has not all been smooth sailing for her, though. The French Tennis Federation has denied the Russian a wildcard into both the main and qualifying draws of Rolland Garros, ruling her out of the Grand Slam for a second consecutive year.

Sharapova – currently ranked 173rd in the world – is likely to face an uphill battle to secure her place in several of the biggest events this year, though she has been thrown a lifeline for Wimbledon.

The 2004 champion has been given a wildcard for the Rogers Cup in Toronto – a Premier 5 event where 900 ranking points will be up for grabs from August 5.

Tournament Director Karl Hale announced her presence would be met with great enthusiasm.

"Maria is a Grand Slam champion and a fan favourite," he said in a statement.

"She has served her suspension and we know our guests will be excited to see her play.”

“She will join what is set to be a star-studded field, as we look forward to welcoming the best of women’s tennis back to Toronto this summer.

“It should be a fantastic Rogers Cup filled with high-quality tennis and entertainment.”

Sharapova – who will be returning to play in Canada for the first time since 2014 – has welcomed the opportunity to boost her chances of qualifying for the third major of the year.

"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Canada," she said.

"I have some great memories of playing Toronto in the past, and the tournament and the fans have always been so supportive. This is one of the biggest events of the year and I hope to play my best tennis that week.”

Sharapova has drawn criticism for enjoying free entry to several tournaments after serving her ban, but the talk is unlikely to affect her bid to reestablish herself at the peak of women’s tennis.

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US Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova
Roger Federer
French Open
Australian Open
Andy Murray

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