THE Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has accepted a request from Maria Sharapova to play at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next month.

It is understood that Sharapova approached the LTA about receiving a wild card for the grass-court event and the organisation has agreed.

Sharapova was refused automatic entry to the French Open on Tuesday, with her ranking still too low to qualify by right. She returned from a 15-month ban in April after testing positive for meldonium.

The LTA’s call to grant the world number 211 a free pass for the Aegon Classic is likely to draw criticism from those that believe players suspended for doping should not be given special privileges.

Andy Murray has been clear in his view that returning offenders should have to work their way back up, a view shared by a number of other players on tour.

It will also place added scrutiny on Wimbledon’s decision of whether to offer Sharapova a wild card into their main draw this summer.

Sharapova has accumulated enough points already to enter Wimbledon qualifying but an All England Club sub-committee will meet on June 20 to decide which players will be fast-tracked into the first round proper.

Wimbledon donates a large share of its profits to the LTA but the grand slam oversees its own tournament independently.