(CNN) -- Former world number one Justine Henin has ruled herself out of contention to win January's Australian Open, the first grand slam event of the 2011 tennis season.
The 28-year-old returned from two years out of the sport to remarkably reach the 2010 final in Melbourne, narrowly losing to Serena Williams in three sets.
However, a serious elbow injury curtailed her progress for most of the year and, speaking to journalists ahead of next week's Hopman Cup in Perth, Henin admitted she is a long way short of the fitness required to win a major tournament.
"I hope I can build my condition up this year by playing tournaments and hope to be really ready around June or July, which would be great for me," said the Belgian -- a winner of seven grand slam titles during her career, including the 2004 Australian Open.
"My elbow is getting better. It is six months since the injury and I can't say I am 100% yet, but I am working very hard on it and I spend two hours every day on my rehabilitation," added Henin.
"Now step by step I can improve, but it will probably take a few more weeks and maybe months before I can be 100%. I am not feeling free of all the pain, but I am going in the right direction."
Henin is currently ranked 12th in the world, despite not playing since losing to compatriot Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon in June, and her appearance in the mixed-team Hopman Cup event will mark her return to competitive action.
And, despite being nowhere near her optimum fitness, Henin also admitted that holder Williams' absence throws the tournament wide open.
"Nobody is dominating women's tennis, Serena is not going to be there so the event is going to be wide open -- but I don't consider myself one of the favorites to win," she added.
"The first round is going to be important for me and then we'll see, step by step. Kim Clijsters proved it at the U.S. Open, and I proved it at Melbourne, that a comeback can be a realistic aim."