Novak Djokovic has said his father, Srdjan, has “no intention” of supporting “war initiatives” after he was filmed with a group of Russian fans at the Australian Open.
Djokovic reached his 10th Australian Open final on Friday after defeating American Tommy Paul in straight sets. Ahead of the match, tournament organizers said they had “informed and reminded” players and those around them of the tournament’s “flags and symbols policy”.
On Wednesday, a video emerged of Djokovic’s father with a group of supporters holding the Russian flag and displaying the “Z” symbol, which is seen as a sign of support for Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.
The symbol has been seen on Russian equipment and clothing in Ukraine.
Srdjan Djokovic said he would not be in the stands to watch his son’s semi-final, adding he was in Melbourne ‘to support my son only’ and ‘had no intention of making headlines or cause such disturbance”.
After his victory over Paul on Friday, Djokovic said: “My father, my whole family and myself went through several wars in the 90s.
“As my father said in a statement, we are against war, we will never support any violence or any war. We know how devastating it is for the family, for people in any country going through war.
As a child growing up in Belgrade, Djokovic lived through NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign in 1999, which aimed to end the atrocities committed by troops of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević against ethnic Albanians. in the province of Kosovo.
Djokovic added that his father, as has been the case throughout the Australian Open, reached out to fans, many of whom were displaying Serbian flags, to thank them for their support after his quarter-final. of the Australian Open.
“The photo he took, he was passing through,” Djokovic said. “I heard what he said in the video. He said, ‘Cheers.’ Unfortunately, some media interpreted this in a really wrong way.
“I’m sorry it got so out of hand. But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention to support any war initiative or anything like that.
“My dad…he thought he was taking a picture with someone from Serbia. That’s it. He moved on.
When asked if his father would be back in the stadium for Sunday’s final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Djokovic said he would wait and see.
“Of course, it was not, again, pleasant not to have it in the box [on Friday],” he said. “It’s a decision we made together. I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, I guess.
“I hope to have him. I hope he will feel good to be on the courts because I would like him to be there for the final.
The presence of Russian flags and symbols at the Australian Open has been a source of controversy throughout the tournament.
In the first week, organizers banned spectators from displaying Russian and Belarusian flags, and on Wednesday they said four people had been kicked out of Melbourne Park for displaying pro-war images.
Several Ukrainians, including current player Marta Kostyuk and former player Alexandr Dolgopolov, have spoken out against the presence of Russian flags and “Z” symbols at the tournament.
On the court, Djokovic has been in superb form over the past two weeks and is the heavy favorite to defeat Tsitsipas in the men’s singles final.
If he did, he would claim his 10th Australian Open title and 22nd Grand Slam crown, putting him level with Rafael Nadal at the top of the men’s all-time list.