Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova will begin preparing for her title defence at the All England Club by playing in the DFS Classic in Birmingham next week.
The 18-year-old last night confirmed she would play in the grasscourt tournament at Edgbaston Priory Club after being knocked out of the French Open quarter-finals at Roland Garros by Justine Henin-Hardenne.
Sharapova won both the singles and the doubles at Edgbaston last summer before taking Wimbledon by storm and the Russian righthander is hoping for a similar scenario this year.
The world No 2 said: "Since winning the DFS and Wimbledon, a lot of things have changed, both tennis and social-wise, but I'm still the same person.
"It all started on the grass courts so I'm very happy to be coming back. It's one of those tournaments that is not too hectic and I can relax and concentrate more on my tennis."
Sharapova's return to Birmingham is a significant boost to organisers, who are now assured of a virtual sellout and major media coverage.
It is an appropriate reward for the Edgbaston club, who recently voted Sharapova honorary life membership and who have worked hard to forge a rapport with the star.
Sharapova added: "It is nice I can go to a private club and work out, instead of being in the public eye.
"I do feel it is a relaxed atmosphere, it is a cool little stadium. I have been there the last two years, so when I go there I feel like being at home.
"I am always really excited to come back and to have a full crowd supporting me all the time."
Following her success at the Priory Club a year ago, Sharapova beat Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and is well on her way to becoming a tennis icon.
She built on victory at Wimbledon by winning in Seoul, Tokyo and at the WTA Championships in Los Angeles. This year, Sharapova has already won the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Japan and the Qatar Total Open in Doha.
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