| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Djokovic defends ‘misused’ father over Russia flag controversy

Novak Djokovic defended his father after a video emerged showing him posing at the Australian Open with some fans holding Russian flags, saying he was “misused” by the individuals and that his family was against war.

Djokovic’s father Srdjan skipped his son’s semi-final win over Tommy Paul on Friday, choosing to “watch from home” instead after a video emerged on social media following the Serbian’s quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

The video caused controversy and led to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reiterating support for Ukraine and criticising supporters of Russia’s invasion.

“He (Srdjan) was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people,” Djokovic told reporters.

“I can’t be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans.

“After that, he felt bad and he knew how that’s going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that has happened in the last 24-48 hours.”

Djokovic said it was unfortunate the issue had escalated.

“My father, my whole family and myself have been through several wars during the 90s,” Djokovic said.

“We are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war.

“My father was passing through. There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That’s what he thought. He thought he was taking a photo with somebody from Serbia. That’s it. He moved on.”

Srdjan said earlier in an emailed statement that he was only in Melbourne to support his son.

“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home,” Srdjan said.

Djokovic faces Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final seeking a record-extending 10th title at Melbourne Park and 22nd Grand Slam to equal Rafa Nadal.

Tennis Australia declined to comment on whether Srdjan would be welcomed back for the final, but Djokovic hoped he would be in his box.

“It wasn’t pleasant not to have him,” Djokovic said. “I hope to have him.”

Earlier, asked by a reporter if Srdjan should be deported for posing with the fans, Albanese told a news conference that Australia “stands with the people of Ukraine.”

“That is Australia’s position and Australia is unequivocal in our support for the rule of international law,” he said.

“We do not want to see any support given to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that is having a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine.”

  • Reuters