British number one Johanna Konta has pulled out of the Sydney International with a neck injury – just a week before Australian Open 2019 starts.
Konta, 27, retired from her second-round qualifying match against Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova when 4-1 down.
However, despite the withdrawal, she could still play in the main draw after securing a lucky loser place.
Compatriot Heather Watson, 26, reached the Hobart International main draw with a qualifying win over Isabelle Wallace.
Watson, the British number two and a previous winner of the Tasmania event, overcame the Australian 6-4 6-4.
“When I come to Hobart I’m always feeling really positive and excited about the tournament,” said Watson.
“When I’m happy, I play better. I’m very happy here and I think it shows in my results.”
Sydney-born Konta, ranked 37th in the world, reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2016 and was a quarter-finalist in 2017, though she exited last year’s tournament in the second round.
She hurt her neck in the warm-up on Sunday and retired just 18 minutes into the match after speaking to physio Belinda Smith at courtside.
But the withdrawal of Brisbane International finalists Karolina Pliskova and Lesia Tsurenko meant that additional places opened up in the main draw for those who lost in the final round of qualifying.
The tournaments in Sydney and Hobart are among the final WTA events before Australian Open 2019, the first Grand Slam of the year, begins on 14 January.
Her camp insisted the move was precautionary and, soon after treatment, she accepted the place in the draw that was made vacant by the withdrawal of the US Open champion Naomi Osaka. Konta was due to face Kiki Bertens, the world No 9 from the Netherlands, in the first round.
With Kyle Edmund and Andy Murray among the wounded suffering from injuries old and new, Konta’s injury update was a welcome lift for British hopes at the Australian Open, which begins in a week’s time.