It’s a good pre-emptive strike against more potentially bad news. Or perhaps Maria Sharapova has already gotten some advance indication of the answer from the All-England Club, were she to ask.
The 2004 Wimbledon champion announced via her website Friday that she will not ask for a wild card into the main draw this year. She will play the qualifying, a spot earned by virtue of her ranking and results since her return a few weeks ago.
The grass tuneup in Birmingham already has confirmed a two-year deal for her to compete there in 2017 and 2018.
Sharapova hasn’t played Birmingham since 2010. In fact, she hasn’t played any grass-court warmup events before Wimbledon since then.
But before that, she was a Birmingham regular, playing it seven of the previous eight years.
“One of my most memorable tournaments as a young player. I am so grateful and excited to be playing this event again!,” Sharapova said on her website.
The Birmingham tournament is played the week of June 19. Wimbledon qualifying is the following week.
Throwback to an earlier era
Unlike the other Grand Slams, it’s not played at the main tournament venue; the grass would be kaput before the main event even begins.
Instead, it takes place at the Bank of England Sports Ground in nearby Roehampton, about a 10-15 minute drive away.
Wimbledon has already announced that it will raise the bar at the qualifying, which has traditionally been a sleepy little tournament attended by a few locals out to enjoy a day in the sum.
The logistics are pretty basic; it’s a quaint throwback. And not many of the tennis journalists who cover the main event venture there.
This year will be different. Instead of free admission, they will be charging a nominal fee that will go to charity. And Wimbledon has even added match streaming from one court. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll schedule Sharapova on that one.