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Sharapova to learn Wimbledon wild card fate on June 20

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LONDON —¬†Maria Sharapova may have to wait until June 20 to see if she will be welcomed back to this year’s tournament at Wimbledon.

Sharapova, the 2004 champion at the All England Club, returned to the WTA Tour last week after serving a 15-month ban for doping and reached the semifinals in Stuttgart, leaving her ranked No. 262.

Sharapova is set to play two more tournaments, in Madrid and Rome, before the deadline for direct entry to Wimbledon qualifying. Deep runs at those events could earn her enough points to make the main draw, while she will also find out on May 16 if she gets a wild card for the French Open.

Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said Wednesday there will be a meeting of the tournament’s tennis sub-committee on June 20, when it will be clear which players have been accepted into the main draw. Wimbledon begins July 3, its latest start since 1895.

Andy Murray, the world’s top-ranked men’s player, said he expects Sharapova to be granted a wild card if she needs one.

“But I’m sure they are hoping they don’t have to make the decision,” Murray said Tuesday at the launch of the Queen’s Club tournament, a warm-up event for Wimbledon. “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.”

Lewis said qualifying at nearby Roehampton would be a ticketed event for the first time, and that action on one of the courts will be broadcast live. He said this was not linked to the possible appearance of Sharapova, but because of the upsurge in interest in qualifying matches.

Also, All England Club chairman Philip Brook said two-time Wimbledon finalist Ilie Nastase will not be invited to the Royal Box on Centre Court.

The 70-year-old Romanian has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation following his comments about the skin color of the baby that Serena Williams is expecting and his foul-mouthed outbursts during a recent Fed Cup match between Romania and Britain.

“What he did, we have to say, his actions were not very good and we condemn them,” Brook said.

There will be a 12.5 percent increase in total prize money, up to 31.6 million pounds ($40.80 million).

The winners of the singles titles will each win 2.2 million pounds ($2.85 million), a 10 percent increase from 2016.

First-round losers will receive 35,000 pounds ($45,000), a 16.7 percent increase from 2016, as Wimbledon officials say they are placing a greater emphasis on helping lower-ranked players.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.