Jessica Ennis-Hill's chances of winning heptathlon gold at the World Championships have been boosted by the defending champion, Tatyana Chernova, pulling out.
Chernova, who pipped the Briton to gold in Daegu two years ago, has been the form heptathlete this season with a best of 6,623 points. Ennis-Hill, who is still to overcome an Achilles injury, had said she would only travel to Moscow next month if she felt she had a realistic chance of winning. The absence of the Russian, who has withdrawn after suffering knee-ligament damage in her national trials, will aid that cause in what has been a dip in heptathlon performances in 2013.
Going into the London Olympics a year ago, 13 athletes had gone past the 6,400-point barrier. Following Chernova's withdrawal just three others, Sharon Day, Julia Mächtig and Hanna Melnychenko, have done so this season.
Ennis-Hill set a daunting total of 6,955 points to win heptathlon gold in London and, even if declared fit, is unlikely to get close to that mark after only properly opening her season last week with a long jump and javelin competition in Loughborough before her appearance at the Anniversary Games.
Her injury means she remains a doubt for Moscow and there are still plans for her to compete over hurdles once more before any decision is made, potentially as soon as an event in Blackheath, south London, on Saturday.
Two of the three Britons to win Olympic gold last summer are definitely travelling to Moscow, long jumper Greg Rutherford joining Mo Farah on the plane after recovering from a hamstring tear in time.
Rutherford was given the thumbs up by the UK Athletics performance director, Neil Black, after a late fitness test on Monday. Black said: "Greg has shown a remarkable level of recovery during a short space of time, something he has shown an aptitude for." The announcement means that Chris Tomlinson, who finished sixth behind Rutherford in the Olympic final, misses out.
The British team for the Worlds is set to be captained by former Olympic and World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, who won her event in London last weekend.