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Sharapova out of Birmingham with Wimbledon in mind

© AFP/File | Resting: Maria Sharapova

LONDON (AFP) - 

Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from next week's WTA grass court event in Birmingham, opting instead to rest ahead of her return to Wimbledon after a three-year absence.

The 31-year-old Russian, who was Wimbledon champion in 2004, has not played at the All England Club since 2015, when she made the semi-finals.

She was serving a doping ban in 2016 and was injured in 2017 when she was planning to play the qualifying tournament.

"I have good memories of Birmingham so I'm disappointed not to be able to play this year," said Sharapova, a two-time champion at the Wimbledon warm-up event.

"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 one."

Sharapova, the world number 23, made the French Open quarter-finals last week where she was defeated by Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

© 2018 AFP