Safina enters Brisbane tourney

BRISBANE, Australia -- Two days after tearfully pulling out of the WTA Championships with a serious back injury she thought could keep her out of the Australian Open, Dinara Safina has entered the earlier Brisbane International.

"After playing on the Gold Coast from 2004 to 2008, I am pleased to return to Queensland to play in Brisbane," Safina said Friday in a statement issued by Brisbane International organizers.

"The Brisbane International will be the perfect tournament to get some tough match practice in the lead-up to the Australian Open. I am looking forward to the challenge and I cannot wait to get there," she said.

Safina said Wednesday in Doha that she faced six weeks of rest before stepping back on the court and a potentially long rehabilitation process that could see her miss the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 18. The Brisbane International runs from Jan. 3-10.

Safina lasted only 13 minutes in her first round-robin match of the season-ending championships on Wednesday before retiring while serving at 1-1 against Jelena Jankovic. Her withdrawal meant she lost the year-end No. 1 ranking to Serena Williams.

"I did everything possible to play here," Safina said then. "As I was chasing this No. 1 [ranking], I was fighting with my body."

After stopping play in the third game, Safina, in tears, walked over to her chair and covered her face with a towel before retiring. She said one of the discs in her lower back was "starting to fracture" and that she has been dealing with the pain for three months.

"When I speak with the doctors, it doesn't sound so good," Safina said in Doha of the Australian Open, where she lost this year's final to Williams. "It is possible I may have to skip it."

On Friday, Brisbane International tournament director Steve Ayles said he was happy to confirm Safina's appearance despite her recent injury.

"She joins Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic in a very strong and competitive women's field," Ayles said. "We have been in negotiations with Safina for some time and it is just a shame that when we are ready to announce her attendance she suffers an injury in Doha.

"Safina is a fighter and I know she is really looking forward to returning to Queensland," he said. "I have no doubt she will be here in January."