Novak Djokovic’s father poses with fan wearing pro-Russia ‘Z’ symbol
By Zayn Nabbi and Angus Watson, CNN
The Australian Open told CNN it has “briefed and reminded” players and their entourages about the tournament’s “policy regarding flags and symbols” on Thursday after video emerged on Wednesday of Novak Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, pictured at a demonstration with fans holding Russian flags, voicing his support for Russia.
In a video posted on YouTube by a known Vladimir Putin supporter, the Serbian player’s father can be seen posing with a fan outside Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. The man is wearing the “Z” symbol on his shirt, while holding a Russian flag with Putin’s face on it. “Long live the Russia,” he says.
The “Z” symbol is viewed as a sign of support for Russia, including its invasion of Ukraine. The symbol has been seen on Russian equipment and clothing in Ukraine.
“Players and their teams have been briefed and reminded of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that has the potential to disrupt,” an Australian Open spokesperson told CNN Thursday.
“We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement agencies.”
The Australian Open spokesperson went on to say “a small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards following a match on Wednesday night and were evicted. One patron is now assisting police with unrelated matters.”
In a statement Friday that addressed criticism of his actions but stopped short of an apology, Srdjan Djokovic said he was in Melbourne “to support my son only,” and “had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption.”
“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,” he said.
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.”
He added that he would watch his son’s semifinal match against US star Tommy Paul from home on Friday “so there is no disruption … for my son or for the other player.”
Novak Djokovic will not be commenting on the situation, his management told CNN.
Earlier Friday, Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia had urged the player to state his position on the war, saying the incident with his father had amounted to a “provocation” and “shines a negative light on Novak himself as he prepares for his semi-final.”
“I think for him to dispel the speculation it’s important to make a very strong statement about where he stands on this war, and I would like to see an apology from Novak Djokovic,” Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko told CNN.
“Of course, the son cannot be responsible for the sins of his father, but maybe he has the same opinion as his father. I think the world should know where he stands.”
Tennis Australia has confirmed that four people were ejected from the tournament on Wednesday for displaying pro-war imagery.
According to the Australian Open rules Russian and Belarusian flags are banned from the event.
Tennis Australia has a “neutral flag” policy and has re-emphasized it policy amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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