Sydney, Jan 10 (Agencies): Defending champion Marcos Baghdatis pulled out of the Sydney International on Monday with a groin strain.

The Cypriot, beaten finalist at the 2006 Australian Open, said he did not want to risk worsening the problem before the opening grand slam of the year, which starts next week.

"It's been on my left groin," he told reporters. "It's been four days I have pain. I don't want to risk too much by going in the match and making it worse, so I took the decision today with my team not to participate here."

The world number 21 had been given a bye into the second round and will be replaced by Polish lucky loser Lukas Kubot in the draw for the USD 422,000 (£271,423) men's tournament.

"I'm a bit disappointed," Baghdatis added. "I'm the defending champion here and I wanted to play so much... It was not an easy one, but sometimes you have to take decisions that are not easy."

The 25-year-old lost to Roger Federer in the 2006 final at Melbourne Park and has won four tour titles since then, reaching a highest world ranking of eighth in August 2006.