Safina set for Stuttgart return
Stuttgart - Former world number one Dinara Safina is set to begin her comeback from the painful back injury which has kept her out of tennis for three months at this week's WTA tournament in Stuttgart.
The Russian has not played since January's Australian Open and is the second seed in Stuttgart with current world number two Caroline Wozniacki as the top-ranked player with last year's winner Svetlana Kuznetsova as third seed.
Safina had a bad start to the year when she had to retire at the last 16 stage in Melbourne with two stress fractures and a ruptured muscle in her back and has been working intensively with her Croatian physio to fix the problem.
She says she is looking forward to competing on court again and is hoping to celebrate her 24th birthday on Tuesday with some success having had to find other ways to keep herself fit since she last contested a WTA event.
"During all this time, I have been doing a lot of biking," she said on her blog.
"This was the only thing I could do to stay in shape. I have been putting a lot of work in to get fit and I am looking forward to it."
Former world number one Justine Henin is expected to be in Stuttgart despite breaking a finger on her left hand last week, but needed a wildcard to take her place in Stuttgart as she continues her comeback.
Venus Williams has withdrawn because of the knee injury she suffered in the final of the Miami WTA tournament and her sister, world number one Serena, also sits out Stuttgart.
The pair both missed the USA's Fed Cup semi-final against Russia in Alabama at the weekend.
"My doctors told me I need more time to recover from my injury, it's why I can't make Stuttgart," said Venus.
The top half of the draw features Wozniacki who is expected to face Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
But Kuznetsova and Australia's Samantha Stosur are potential opponents she may need to overcome.
In the bottom half, Safina has an opening bye but will be up against the likes of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, while Henin faces Germany's Julia Goerges in her first match.
Competition in the Porsche Arena promises to be tough with a total of seven top ten players appearing at the 33rd edition of the long standing event, a key warm-up for the French Open next month.
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