LONDON (Reuters) - Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament -- this year featuring Maria Sharapova -- will for the first time be televised across Europe, after Eurosport struck a deal with the All England Club.
The sports broadcaster holds rights for the two-week grasscourt grand slam tournament, and will be including the qualifiers at Roehampton, south-west London, from June 26.
“We have already received terrific feedback from tennis fans following our live coverage of the qualifying tournaments from the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, and we’re delighted to be able to do the same for Wimbledon too,” Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton said.
“There is likely to be some high-profile players taking part in the Wimbledon qualifiers in 2017, so we’re expecting huge interest in our coverage from right across Europe.”
Former Wimbledon champion Sharapova said she would not request a wildcard for this year’s grasscourt championships after returning last month from a 15-month doping ban, and will instead attempt to qualify.
The June 26-29 qualifying tournament is played at the Bank of England Sports Grounds, and will be ticketed for the first time this year, with 1,000 tickets for sale at five pounds ($6.40) each. Proceeds will go to the Wimbledon Foundation.
Other changes to previous years include inflatable covers on two courts and an improved player lounge.
Asked earlier this month whether the changes were made with Sharapova’s possible presence in mind, All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis told the BBC: “I know it does seem very convenient timing but it is actually unrelated, genuinely unrelated, and we know that qualifying needs to continue to be improved, just like we improve facilities here at the championships. It’s part of an ongoing process.”
The main tournament will begin a week after the qualifiers on July 3.
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Editing by Pritha Sarkar