Safina withdraws from Brisbane International

Former top-ranked Dinara Safina’s fitness for the Australian

Open is in doubt after she withdrew Friday from next month’s

Brisbane International, where she’d been aiming to return from

injury and commence finetuning for season’s first major.

Tournament director Steve Ayles said Safina had withdrawn from

the Jan. 3-10 Brisbane International due to her ongoing back

problem.

“At this stage she’s still entered in Sydney and the Austrlaian

Open. We were first up … unfortunately she’s not going to be

recovered in time,” Ayles said in a telephone interview with The

Associated Press.

“I know she would have been working around the clock to try to

be ready for the event but in the end time beat her and she is

still undergoing treatment.”

The Sydney tournament will feature most of the women’s top 10 in

the week before the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18 in

Melbourne.

Safina tearfully withdrew from the WTA Championships with a

serious back injury in October, an injury she originally thought

could keep her out of the Australian Open. But she confirmed for

the Brisbane tournament only two days later.

The Russian player lasted only 13 minutes in her first

round-robin match of the season-ending championships before

retiring while serving at 1-1 against Jelena Jankovic. Her

withdrawal meant she lost the year-end No. 1 ranking to Serena

Williams.

Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, both on the comeback

after brief retirements, still headline the Brisbane International

women’s draw, along with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Dokic.

Ayles said the return to Australia of Henin and Clijsters was

generating a lot of interest in the tournament, which is in its

second year.

“These two girls have got something to prove,” Ayles told the

AP. “Henin left the tour on top of the world. She’s played a

couple of exhibition tournaments and is in very good form according

to all reports.

“And of course Kim wants to carry on and continue her winning

ways from the U.S. Open.”