Former top-ranked Dinara Safina’s fitness for the Australian Open is in doubt after she withdrew on Friday from next month’s Brisbane International, where she’d been aiming to return from injury and commence practicing for the 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Tournament director Steve Ayles said Safina had withdrawn from the Jan. 3-10 Brisbane International due to her ongoing back problem.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 recovering in time,” Mr. 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 on 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 her participation 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.

Mr. 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.

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