Maria Sharapova withdraws from Birmingham to be fully fit for Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from next week's WTA event in Birmingham in order to be fully fit for her return to Wimbledon after a three-year absence.

The 31-year-old 2004 Wimbledon champion, has not played at the All England Club since 2015.

She served a doping ban in 2016 and was injured in 2017 when she was planning to play in the qualifying tournament.

"I need to take care of my body," said the Russian. "Sometimes that means you have to take tough decisions."

The two-time champion of the Wimbledon warm-up event added: "I have good memories of Birmingham so I'm disappointed not to be able to play this year."

The former world number one fell to 262 in the world last April when she returned from her 15-month ban.

She is now ranked 23rd and reached the French Open quarter-finals last week where she was defeated by Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

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