Video shared online This week it seemed as though Serjan Djokovic was siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supporters after his son’s victory over Russia’s Andrei Rublev on Wednesday.
A fan can be seen holding a Russian flag with a picture of Putin on it and wearing a T-shirt with the letter “Z” on it which has become a pro-Russian symbol Since the invasion of Ukraine. “Long live the Russians,” Serjan Djokovic responded with a “Zeveli Rossiani” translated in the video before walking away.
In his statement, Srdjan, who is Serbian, said he took pictures with the fans “as I did after all my son’s matches. I had no intention of falling into this matter.”
He added, “My family has lived through the horror of war, and we only wish for peace.”
Novak Djokovic addressed the controversy after beating Paul 7-5 6-1 6-2 to advance to Sunday’s final against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
“Well, yes, I saw, as everyone saw, what happened [Wednesday]said Djokovic. “It was unfortunate that it was a misinterpretation of what happened [Wednesday] escalated to such a high level. There have been, as I say, a lot of conversations with the tournament director, with the media and everyone else. It got me, of course, too. I wasn’t aware of that until last night. Then, of course, I wasn’t happy to see that.”
Djokovic went on to echo his father’s statement that his family did not support the war, that Srdjan was meeting fans as he usually did after his son’s matches, and that his presence was misunderstood.
“My father, as he said in the statement, has been following every match to meet my fans in the main arena here at the Australian Open, to thank them for the support, to be with them, to give them respect, to make the picture that he took, he was going through it. I heard what he said in the video. He said: Cheer up. Unfortunately, some of the media got it really wrong. I’m sorry that escalated so much. But I hope people understand that there was never any intention of supporting any kind of war initiative or anything like that.”
Although flags are usually allowed to be used during Australian Open matches at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia Russian and Belarusian flags banned On the second day of this year’s tournaments, after the Russian flag was raised on the field during last week’s women’s first round match between Ukrainian Kateryna Bindel and Russian Kamila Rakimova. Tennis Australia then said the flags would be banned to avoid “disruption”.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus were only allowed to compete in the Australian Open and a number of other tennis tournaments as “neutral” players, without reference to their countries or flags, after Russia’s Belarus-supported invasion of Ukraine. In other sporting events, incl Wimbledon and the Men’s Football World CupThey were completely forbidden to participate.
“During the event we spoke with the players and their teams about the importance of not engaging in any activity that causes distress or distress,” Tennis Australia said in a statement on Friday.
Referring to Serjan Djokovic’s decision not to attend Friday’s match, the authority said it would “continue to fight for the safety of fans at the event”, and reiterated the ban on the flags of Russia and Belarus. “Tennis Australia stands with the advocacy of peace and an end to the war and violent conflict in Ukraine.”
Michael Miller in New South Wales, Australia, and Liz Clark in Washington contributed to this report.