Novak Djokovic still hopes to play the upcoming Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami after applying for an exemption owing to his COVID-19 vaccination status.
Novak Djokovic said he's hoping for a positive outcome shortly, after applying for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption to enter the United States, to compete in the upcoming Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
Djokovic also said he will play next week's ATP tournament in Dubai, despite lingering concerns over a hamstring injury.
"My plans after Dubai depend on the U.S. I'm waiting for a reply, it's not on me. I will know soon," the world number one said at an on-court press conference held after a practice session in Belgrade.
"Everything is in process. I'm thankful to the Indians 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."
The United States vaccine requirement for foreign air travellers is not expected to be lifted until the middle of May, several weeks after both tournaments have taken place, but Djokovic said he had submitted the required documentation for special permission.
Last month, Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas said it would be a "disgrace" if Djokovic was not allowed to compete in the U.S. in 2023 after the Serbian also missed all of last year's tournaments in North America, including the last major of the year at Flushing Meadows, New York.
Djokovic, who missed last year's Australian Open and was deported from the country due to his vaccine status, has previously said he would not play the biggest tournaments on the ATP tour, rather than get the COVID shot.
"Last year I missed Indian Wells, Miami and the U.S. Open swing so it won't be the first time if it happens (again). I hope it doesn't," Djokovic said. "That's all I can do because my position stays the same. The U.S. 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 when I lost to Daniil Medvedev. 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."
Next week, the Serb is set to overtake Steffi Graf's all-time record number of weeks as world number one, with both currently tied on 377 weeks.
"Steffi Graf is one of the biggest legends of our sport," Djokovic continued. "It is very flattering to equal and have a possibility to break her record. Being number one and winning Wimbledon was always my dream as a kid."
Djokovic is currently tied with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slams, a joint record in the men's game. When asked how many Grand Slam titles would satisfy him, Djokovic responded by say "that number doesn't exist."
Meanwhile, Djokovic still regards Nadal as his main rival, and doesn't that will ever change, despite the surge from Carlos Alcaraz over the last 12 months, including a spell as world number one that featured a win over the Serbian in Madrid last year.
"My main rival is still Nadal. Even though Alcaraz was number one, won a Slam and is arguably the next big thing in our sport, the rivalry with Nadal is difficult to eliminate - Nadal has been and will remain the biggest rival I ever had in my career."
But Djokovic said he has been impressed by Alcaraz's return to form after recovering from injury, as the Spaniard hit the ground running by winning in Buenos Aires last week.
By coming back to the tour, and immediately enjoying success, Djokovic said Alcaraz had shown he was a "mature" player, despite his tender age.
"Alcaraz is playing on a great level," Djokovic told reporters. "Especially after several months of absence from the tour with the injuries he was struggling with. It's amazing that he's able to find the top level right away."
"With the way he handles himself on and off the court, he's a great guy, he has a very good team of people around him, he deserves all his success. He brings a fresh energy to the tennis, very dynamic."