Maria Sharapova Just Moved A Step Closer To Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova at the ATP Tennis Open tournament in Rome at the Foro Italico, May 15. ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty

Maria Sharapova has secured her place in Wimbledon's qualifying tournament after a first-round victory over American Christina McHale at the Italian Open.

The 2004 Wimbledon champion was given a wildcard to compete in Rome after returning from a 15-month ban after testing positive to doping.

Sharapova is currently at number 211 in the world rankings and requires a top-100 finish before the championships draw. The 30-year-old Russian could achieve that should she reach the semifinal of the tournament in Italy.

Qualifiers take place at the Bank of England Sports Grounds in Roehampton, with tickets introduced for this year's event. Fans will have never before seen a former world number one compete in qualifying.

Last year's qualifying included the likes of American Sachia Vickery, world number 142, and Britain's Katie Boulter, at 280th in the world.

The highest ranked qualifier at Wimbledon last year was Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic, at 46th in the world, while the highest was Luksika Kumkhum from Thailand, who is 212th.