MARIA’S SNUB

Shara­pova pulls out of Birm­ing­ham de­spite wild­card

Daily Mail - - Tennis - By MIKE DICK­SON @Mike_Dick­son_DM

Maria Shara­pova dealt Bri­tish ten­nis an em­bar­rass­ing blow last night when she pulled out of next week’s Na­ture val­ley Clas­sic in Birm­ing­ham.

Fol­low­ing rafael Nadal’s more ex­pected with­drawal from the Fever-Tree Cham­pi­onships at Queen’s, it was a dou­ble dis­ap­point­ment for the LTa’s pre-Wim­ble­don events.

Last year the gov­ern­ing body an­nounced it had se­cured a two-year com­mit­ment from the rus­sian in re­turn for a con­tro­ver­sial wild­card as she came back from a dop­ing ban.

But Shara­pova, who had ear­lier been an­nounced as play­ing in the pre-Wim­ble­don ex­hi­bi­tion at the hurling­ham Club at the end of the month, said: ‘i need to take care of my body and make sure i stay healthy and some­times that means you have to take tough de­ci­sions like this.’

Shara­pova won the ti­tle in Birm­ing­ham in 2004 and 2005.

Nadal’s with­drawal was less of a sur­prise, es­pe­cially as this is the third straight year he has given Queen’s a miss. he said that 27 matches on the clay had taken too much of a toll, with his knees of­ten a prob­lem on grass these days.

‘i have spo­ken to my doc­tors and i need to lis­ten to what my body is telling me,’ said the 32-year-old Spa­niard, who did not sug­gest his ap­pear­ance at Wim­ble­don is un­der threat.

roger Federer played his first match since March 24 yes­ter­day when, af­ter skip­ping the clay court sea­son, he de­feated Ger­many’s Mis­cha Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the sec­ond round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. ‘Three months is a long time, it’s longer than the year-end break, so i’m very happy re­turn­ing on good terms on to the Tour,’ said the 36-year-old.

‘it was dif­fi­cult, i missed some chances in the first set. he con­nected well at the right times. and then i found a way. i found my rhythm. i’m very happy with how i played. i’m su­per happy to be back on Tour. it’s been a great start.’

For­mer Bri­tish No 2 Dan Evans scored yet an­other grass-court win when he beat Sergiy Stakhovsky, the man who fa­mously knocked Federer out of Wim­ble­don in 2013, to make the quar­ter-fi­nal of the Na­ture val­ley open in Not­ting­ham.

Evans won 7-5, 7-6 and — hav­ing started from scratch af­ter a one-year ban for tak­ing co­caine — is now up to a min­i­mum No 468 in the world in what is his third tour­na­ment back, pil­ing fur­ther pres­sure on Wim­ble­don to give him a wild­card.

GETTY IMAGES

No show: Shara­pova has won the Birm­ing­ham ti­tle twice

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