Djokovic says father 'misinterpreted' over Russian flag video

Friday, 27 January 2023 (21:49 IST)
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic said on Friday that a controversial video of his father at the Australian Open was subject to "misinterpretation."
A YouTube video showed Novak's father, Srdjan Djokovic, posing with a man holding a Russian flag with President Vladimir Putin's face on it. The video was captioned "Novak Djokovic's father makes bold political statement."
Also on Friday, Srdjan said that he would stay away from the semi-final so there would be "no disruption.” Both he and his son maintain that Srdjan did not intend to show support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
What did Novak Djokovic say about the controversy?
Talking to reporters in Australia, Djokovic said his father had "no intention whatsoever to support any war initiatives."
"My father, my whole family, have been through several wars. As my father put in the statement, we are against the war. We will never support any violence or war," the tennis player said.
Serbia's N1 broadcaster cited Djokovic as saying that he hoped his father would be present at the semi-final.
Earlier on Friday, Srdjan said: "I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption."
Djokovic's father said that he met with fans outside the stadium as he had done after other matches to "celebrate [Novak's] wins and take pictures with them."
"I had no intention of being caught up in this," Srdjan said. He said he would avoid the semi-final so as not to cause "disruption."
This is not the first time the tennis star has been met with controversy at the Australian Open. Last year, Djokovic was deported from Australia for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, preventing him from participating in the tournament.
Tennis Australia condemns incident
The organization tasked with organizing the Australian Open tournament urged fans not to engage in "disruption" in a statement and reiterated its ban on the display of Russian and Belarusian flags.
"Throughout the event, we've spoken with players and their teams about the importance of not engaging in any activity that causes distress or disruption," Tennis Australia said.
"We will continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia," the organization said. Belarus is an ally of Moscow and serves as an important staging ground for the invasion.
"Tennis Australia stands with the call for peace and an end to war and violent conflict in Ukraine.''
Police and Tennis Australia said that four people were kicked out of the tournament for displaying banned flags and threatening security guards.
Ukraine's player Kostyuk, ambassador criticize video
Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk said it that it was painful to see Russian flags at the Australian Open.
"It hurts a lot because there were specific rules, they were printed out outside that this is not allowed to bring flags," Kostyuk said.
"It's not impossible, but you're not allowed to bring out the flags and so on," she said, referring to the event's ban on Russian flags. "It really hurts that they were there for quite some time."
Ukraine's ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, called for Srdjan Djokovic to be stripped of his accreditation.
The Ukrainian envoy told the AFP news agency that he believed Djokovic should personally apologize.
"He should apologize for what has happened, and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine," Myroshnychenko said.

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