Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan stays out of Australian Open semi-final


Srdjan Djokovic, the father of tennis star Novak Djokovic, has said he will stay away from his son’s semi-final match at the Australian Open after he was seen earlier this week posing with fans wearing pro-Russian symbols banned by the tournament.

In a statement released hours before his son beat Tommy Paul of the United States in straight sets, Srdjan Djokovic confirmed that he would not participate to avoid creating a «disruption», saying: «I am only here to support my son.

A video shared online this week appears to show Srdjan Djokovic alongside supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin after his son’s victory over Russian player Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

A fan could be seen holding a Russian flag with an image of Putin and wearing a T-shirt with the letter «Z», which has become a pro-Russian symbol since the invasion of Ukraine. Srdjan Djokovic replied «Zivjeli Russiyani», translated in the video as «Long live the Russians», before walking away.

Video shows Novak Djokovic’s father with pro-Russian fans at Australian Open

In his statement, Srdjan, who is Serbian, said he took pictures with supporters “like I did after all my son’s games. I didn’t mean to get caught up in this.

«My family has lived through the horror of war and we only want peace,» he added.

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]», Djokovic said. «It is unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened [Wednesday] has reached such a level. There were, I would say, a lot of conversations with the tournament director, with the media and everyone. It touched me, of course, too. I only realized this last night. So, of course, I wasn’t happy to see that.

Djokovic went on to echo his father’s statement that his family does not support the war, that Srdjan was meeting fans as he usually does after his son’s matches, and that his presence was misinterpreted.

«My dad, as he said in the statement, went after every game to meet my fans in the main square here at the Australian Open, to thank them for their support, to be with them, to give back to them. tribute and take pictures,» Djokovic said. «The picture he took, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said, ‘Cheers.’ Unfortunately, some media have interpreted this in a really wrong way. I’m sorry that it has escalated so much. But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention to support any kind of initiatives of war or something like that.

Although flags are normally allowed at Australian Open matches at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia banned Russian and Belarusian flags on the second day of this year’s tournaments after a Russian flag was displayed on the court in a women’s first-round match last week between Kateryna Baindl of Ukraine and Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia. Tennis Australia then said flags would be banned to avoid «disruption».

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were only allowed to participate in the Australian Open and a number of other tennis tournaments as «neutral» players, without reference to their country or their flag, following the Belarus-backed Russian invasion of Ukraine. In other sporting events, including Wimbledon and the Men’s World Cup, they have been banned from participation altogether.

«Throughout the event, we have spoken with players and their teams about the importance of not engaging in any activity that causes distress or disruption,» Tennis Australia said in a statement on Friday.

Noting Srdjan Djokovic’s decision not to attend Friday’s match, the body said it would «continue to fight for the safety of the fans at the event», and reiterated that the flags of Russia and Belarus were prohibited. «Tennis Australia supports the call for peace and an end to war and violent conflict in Ukraine.»

Michael Miller in New South Wales, Australia, and Liz Clarke in Washington contributed to this report.

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