But Ilie Nastase will not be receiving a Royal Box invitation this summer and will be ejected from the grounds if he spotted in SW19 during the tournament after comments at the recent Fed Cup match with Romania.
Tim Henman will chair the committee to make a final decision on June 20, the first time her doping ban will be considered as part of any application.
But the criteria outlined by club chairman Philip Brook, who will also be part of the committee ruling on wild cards, clearly indicated that a former champion such as 2004 winner Sharapova is precisely why the wild card system is in place to start with.
“There are a number of factors taken into account which historically include looking at British players who we thing might add interest to the Championships,” he said.
Maria Sharapova could be given a wild card if she does not pick up enough ranking points
“Then we take a look at who's done well in the lead-up tournaments, those are important to us so we have in the past rewarded success in some of these tournaments by awarding a wild card.
“And we will also consider what might add interest to the tournament, so if someone had a very strong playing record here at Wimbledon, that would be a factor in our consideration as well.”
Sharapova should take nothing for granted, however. As well as announcing the winning prize for both men and women’s singles champions will rise 10 per cent to £2.2m this year, the All England Club used their annual spring conference to outline improvements to facilities at Roehampton for what will be the first ticketed qualifying event in the tournaments’ history.
The club could decide only to give Sharapova a wild card for the qualifying event and already concerns have been expressed by members of her team that the public interest would make such a stance unmanageable.
However, this year capacity will initially be set for 1,000 with improved conditions for both media and fan and the club claim that Sharapova being “too big” to take part in qualifiers would not be an issue.
Maria Sharapova’s return to tennis: Controversial star makes comeback from drug ban Wed, April 26, 2017
Maria Sharapova makes her return to tennis at the STuttgart Open after serving a 15-month doping ban
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Maria Sharapova has made her return to tennis after a 15-month drug ban
Nevertheless, they were at pains to point out the timing of the developments is coincidental and merely a response to the event being oversubscribed last year.
Chief executive Richard Lewis said: “We don’t know the facts of Sharapova anyway so we made the decision regardless. Qualifying has been moving in that direction anyway for the last few years now and it has become more and more popular. Last year we were faced with queues to get in the ground.”
One person who definitely won’t be welcome though is former finalist Nastase, whose sexist and racist comments last month has led to an ITF ban from tennis activity.
While Grand Slam events do not fall under the jurisdiction of that decision, Lewis added: “If he was suspended and we noticed him [coming into the grounds], he would be stopped. The ITF suspension does not apply at the grand slams, but we would support that suspension.”
Brook went further to explain: “I think we have to say his actions were not very good and we condemn them.
Ilie Nastase will not be invited into the Royal Box at Wimbledon
“In terms of an invitation to the Royal Box, he’s not going to receive an invitation this year. I think it’s been reported to some extent already in the media, but I can confirm that to you all today.”
“If they are going to be so small-minded about it, there’s nothing I can do,”. said Nastasse in response. “What does Wimbledon have to do with what I said about Serena [Williams] and at the match in Romania?
“If I did something stupid at Wimbledon then I’d understand if I were then suspended. But in this case, I don’t get it.
“If they consider it normal to deny someone – a 71-year-old (sic) – the chance to watch tennis matches, then that’s their problem. It must mean we Romanians are morons… otherwise I don’t understand it.”