Andy Murray expects Maria Sharapova to be handed Wimbledon wildcard

Sharapova is back on the WTA Tour after a 15-month ban for doping and made the semi-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in her first event last week

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray expects Wimbledon to hand Maria Sharapova a wildcard if the returning Russian does not qualify for the tournament off her own back.

Sharapova is back on the WTA Tour after a 15-month ban for doping and made the semi-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in her first event last week, giving herself a ranking of 262 after collecting 185 points.

The 30-year-old, who won at SW19 in 2004, has two more tournaments before the deadline for outright Wimbledon qualification and deep runs in Madrid and Rome should see her earn enough points to make the main draw.

Murray, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, thinks Sharapova will take care of her own business but would expect the All England Club to offer her a lifeline if she fails to make it.

"There might not even be a decision to be made because she might be in the main draw after Madrid or Rome," Murray told a number of national newspapers at the launch of next month's Queen's tournament on Tuesday.

"I think there's a good chance Wimbledon would give her one to get into qualifiers. I'm not sure what they will do but I'm sure they are hoping they don't have to make the decision.

"There's a good chance that she can gets in by right, which I'm sure is what she's hoping for and that's what Wimbledon would be hoping for."

Murray has concerns closer to home to contend with as his first few months as the world number one have been far from ideal.

Early exits from the Australian Open and Indian Wells, coupled with injury and illness have prevented the Scot kicking on from his stellar finish to last year.

He is battling his way back to fitness and form, with a run to the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open last week, but is now entering a period of the season where he has a huge amount of ranking points to defend.

The three-time grand slam winner is insistent that being at the summit of the rankings has not contributed to a difficult 2017.

"I think that was more like at the end of last year," he said. "All that stuff felt a bit different to me. I'm now getting asked about it every week.

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Murray is getting his clay-court season underway (Getty)

"It's almost like trying to find a reason for why this year hasn't been as good as the end of last year but it did not have anything to do with being world number one, in my opinion.

"I haven't felt different when I go on to the court, I didn't feel different when I was preparing for the Australian Open as I did in previous years. I really don't think it has been anything to do with that.

"Definitely at the end of last year, there was a lot going on. But this year and especially the last few months, I haven't felt any different or any extra pressure when I go on the court.

"Maybe now when you lose as number one, it's a bigger story. It feels like each time you lose, it's treated like more of a surprise.

"But I have lost early in Monte Carlo before, I've lost early in Indian Wells before, I've started clay-court seasons badly, I've had difficult runs and I also wasn't number one, so I really don't think it's to do with that.

"It's been a tricky year so far, and I'm hoping now that I'm through the worst of it and I can finish strong."

PA

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