Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has dodged questions about the extent of his hamstring injury as he prepares to return to tennis court for the first time since his Australian Open triumph.

The 35-year-old is training in Belgrade and said he was close to 100 per cent fitness ahead of the upcoming ATP tournament in Dubai.

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Djokovic hasn’t played a competitive match since winning his record-extending 10th Australian Open title last month.

The Serbian battled a hamstring injury throughout his run at Melbourne Park with tournament director Craig Tiley claiming Djokovic had a “three-centimetre tear”.

But opinions were divided on just how bad it was with leading sports medicine specialist Dr Peter Larkins saying it would be virtually impossible to play at his level with such a tear.

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic fronts the media after a practice session in Belgrade. Credit: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

“I’m wondering if Craig is confusing signal of 3cm distance in an MRI hamstring. Signal can mean some inflammation or some swelling, it doesn’t mean a tear,” he said on SEN last month.

“It’s very hard to imagine, if you take a piece of steak and cut a 3cm hole in it, steak is muscle, then it’s very hard to do the level of performance.”

Djokovic said he is still not at full fitness, but chose not to address the lingering conspiracy theory when fronting the media this week.

“It has healed, and I am close to being 100 per cent ready. I’m still not there, but things are looking good and encouraging, so we made a decision as a team for me to go to Dubai,” Djokovic told reporters after practice in Belgrade on Wednesday.

“I really do not have time, energy or will to deal with every story that appears on the internet, or what someone says about something. I know what is right and what is true.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic says he’s hoping for a positive response soon to his request for special permission to enter the United States to compete in the big Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami next month.

Djokovic, the most high-profile athlete unvaccinated against COVID-19, is hoping to compete in USA after next week’s ATP tournament in Dubai.

“My plans after Dubai depend on the US. I’m waiting for a reply, it’s not on me … I will know soon,” he said.

“Everything is in process. I’m thankful to the Indian Wells and Miami communities for their support. They would like me to be able to play in their tournaments … I’m looking forward to a positive decision coming soon, but it’s not in my hands.”

Novak Djokovic during a practice session at Novak Tennis Centre on February 22. Credit: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

The US vaccine requirement for foreign air travellers is not expected to be lifted before the main draw begins at Indian Wells on March 9 and the Miami Open later in the month, meaning Djokovic could miss out for a second straight year.

US President Joe Biden’s administration said last month it would lift COVID emergency declarations on May 11, but Djokovic – named on the Indian Wells entry list – said he had submitted the required documentation for special permission.

Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas said last month it would be a “disgrace” if Djokovic was not allowed to compete in the US in 2023 after the Serbian also missed last year’s US Open at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic, who missed last year’s Australian Open and was deported from the country due to his vaccine status, has said he would skip grand slams rather than have a COVID shot.

“Last year, I missed Indian Wells, Miami and the US Open swing so it won’t be the first time if it happens. I hope it doesn’t,” Djokovic said.

“That’s all I can do because my position stays the same… The US Open is still far away so I hope I’ll be able to be there. It’s one of the four biggest events in our sport’s history.

“Of course I’d love to be there. I’ve received the most wonderful support from the New York and American crowd during the 2021 final I lost to Daniil Medvedev. But I experienced something that I never did there before.

“So I want to go back and connect with people and, hopefully, play my best tennis and get another trophy there.”

– with AAP

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