Former Wimbledon champions Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova have both accepted wildcards into grass court events prior to the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, with both looking to pick up some much needed form after testing starts to the 2019 season.
Williams has not played at a grass court tournament prior to Wimbledon since 2011, where she appeared at Eastbourne, though has this year accepted a wildcard into the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, where the American will join a stellar field.
Meanwhile, Sharapova will also join several big names after accepting a wildcard into the Mallorca Open, which like Birmingham will take place. The Russian will be returning to the tour having not played since the St. Petersburg Open back in February
Venus and Sharapova look for much needed court time
With a combined total of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, Williams and Sharapova are undoubtedly two of the most recognisable names in tennis, yet both are in need of big results coming their way.
Williams is a five-time champion at the All England Club, though this will only be the fourth time in her career that she has played at a grass tournament that is not Wimbledon. The American has struggled of late, falling out of the top 50 after losing in the first round of the French Open to Elina Svitolina, though says she is looking forward to the challenge of playing in Birmingham.
“I’m really excited to be playing in Birmingham for the first time,” the seven-time Grand Slam champion commented, adding that “I always love playing on grass in front of British crowds and have heard wonderful things about the tournament.” Williams joins a field that includes world number one Naomi Osaka, and recently crowned French Open champion and new world number two Ashleigh Barty.
In Mallorca, Sharapova, who has fallen to 87th in the rankings after several months off tour, will be making her return to tennis following a minor shoulder procedure. Despite having won Wimbledon in 2004 and reaching the final in 2011, grass has proven to be the weakest surface for her in the past decade or so, meaning it will be interesting to see how she fares
However, the former world number one commented that she was “happy to be able to announce that I’m going to accept a wildcard” into the tournament, and that she was grateful to both the tournament for the opportunity to play, as well as for her fans for their support. Sharapova will join the likes of reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka at the tournament.