A video of Novak Djokovic’s dad standing alongside supporters of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an unfortunate “misinterpretation”, the tennis star says.
Speaking after his semi-final win over Tommy Paul on Friday, Djokovic admitted the situation had affected his campaign at the Australian Open.
“Of course it’s not pleasant for me to go through this, with everything I had to deal with in Australia,” he said.
“It’s not something I want or need and I hope that people will let it be and we can focus on tennis.”
On Wednesday night at Melbourne Park, Srdjan Djokovic was filmed standing with a group displaying a banned Russian flag that was superimposed with Vladimir Putin‘s face.
One man standing next to Djokovic Snr in the video could be seen wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the letter “Z”, which has been used to symbolise support for the Russian invasion.
Djokovic said his father had “no intention” of being linked to the war, adding he was disappointed the video was interpreted in the “wrong way”.
“It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level,” he said.
“As my father put in a statement – we’re against the war – we will never support any violence or any war.
“We know how devastating that is for the family, for the people, in any family that is going through the war.
“He was passing through and make a photo. It’s not his fault he went out to celebrate with my fans.”
He told reporters that translations of Djokovic Snr appearing to say “zivjeli Russiyani” or “long live Russian citizens” were wrong.
“I heard what he said in the video: he said, ‘cheers’,” he said.
“He was misused.”
Djokovic Snr decided to watch Friday’s match from his hotel room after the incident outside Melbourne Mark sparked outrage across Australia.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia called for the tennis champion to denounce his father’s support and requested an urgent meeting with Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called the incident “bizarre”.
“The Russian onslaught continues, and frankly everybody of goodwill should be trying to deter, not encourage, President Putin. So, it’s bizarre act,” he told Nine.
“It‘s an issue for Tennis Australia as to how they react.”
Late on Friday afternoon, Srdjan Djokovic issued a statement that stopped short of apologising.
“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,” he said.
“I was outside with Novak’s fans as I have done after all of my son’s matches to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being caught up in this.
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.”
Djokovic said he hoped his father would be present during Sunday’s final match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rod Laver Arena, but added they would see “how things will play out”.
“I hope to have him … I would like to have him there at the finals,” he said.
“I hope that all the people that come to the finals are going to come for the tennis, that’s what we all wish for.
“I don’t hold any grudges, I just love playing in Australia and being here.”
The 35-year-old is chasing his 10th Australian Open title and his 22nd major singles championship.
On Friday, Australian Open organisers said they’d reminded players and their teams of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that has the potential to disrupt.
“We will continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia,” the statement said.
“Tennis Australia stands with the call for peace and an end to war and violent conflict in Ukraine.”
Organisers had banned fans from displaying the Russian and Belarusian flag on January 17 because of the war in Ukraine.
Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed to play at the Australian Open but as “neutral” athletes, so their nationalities are not acknowledged on any official schedules or results and a white box is used instead of their countries’ flags on TV graphics.
Story Credit: news.com.au