The father tries to extinguish the controversy. Srdjan Djokovic, at the center of a controversy at the Australian Open after appearing with pro-Russian supporters, announced on Friday that he was giving up attending the semi-final of his son Novak Djokovic at the stadium. so as not to inflame tensions.
“I am only here to support my son. I had no intention of making headlines or causing any disruption (…) In order for there to be no disruption during the semi-final for my son or his opponent, I chose to watch the game from home,” Srdjan Djokovic wrote in a statement. Novak Djokovic, world No. 5, must face American Tommy Paul in the morning for a place in the final of the tournament.
The Ukrainian ambassador gets involved
Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko called on the Serbian player to personally apologize and clarify his position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “It is important that Novak addresses this situation,” he stressed.
A video posted Thursday on a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account showed Srdjan Djokovic posing outside the stadium with a man holding a Russian flag with the face of President Vladimir Putin. The video was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
In his press release, Srdjan Djokovic explains his vision of the incident. “I was outside with the Novak fans like I did after all of my son’s matches to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being dragged into this turmoil,” he says.
According to Vasyl Myroshnychenko, this new non-sporting controversy could overshadow Djokovic’s performances during the tournament this year, a year after he was expelled from Australia for trying to enter the country without being vaccinated against Covid-19. “At the last Open, we only talked about Djokovic,” said the Ukrainian diplomat. “Now we only talk about Russian flags and Djokovic too”.
Former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov, who is currently fighting with his country’s army, called Djokovic-father’s behavior on Twitter “absolutely disgusting”.
The Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, beaten in the 3rd round of the tournament, considered this behavior “very upsetting”. “I don’t know, I don’t understand, it really hurts and I don’t understand how this can be possible,” she said.
Russian flags banned
Last week, Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko helped persuade Australian Open organizers to ban Russian and Belarusian flags from the stands during the tournament. The Russian Embassy in Australia called the ban “a new example of unacceptable politicization of sport”.
Open organizer Tennis Australia said on Thursday it would continue to work with security to enforce entry rules, without directly mentioning the incident with Djokovic’s father.