Novak Djokovic’s father poses with fan wearing pro-Russia ‘Z’ symbol at the Australian Open
The Australian Open told CNN it “briefed and reminded players and their entourages” of the tournament’s “policy regarding flags and symbols” on Thursday after video emerged on Wednesday of Novak DjokovicSrdjan’s father, Srdjan, pictured during a demonstration with fans holding Russian flags and declaring his support for Russia.
In a video posted to YouTube by a well-known supporter of Vladimir Putin, the Serbian player’s father can be seen posing with a fan outside Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. The man wears the “Z” symbol on his shirt while holding a Russian flag with Putin’s face on it. “Long live Russia,” he says.
The “Z” symbol is seen as a sign of support for Russia, including the invasion of Ukraine. The symbol has been seen on Russian equipment and clothing in Ukraine.
“Players and their teams have been informed and reminded of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that could potentially disrupt,” an Australian Open spokesperson told CNN on Thursday.
“We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement agencies.”
The Australian Open spokesman went on to say: “a small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards after a match on Wednesday evening and were evicted. A patron now assists the police with unrelated matters.
In a statement Friday that criticized his actions but stopped short with an apology, Srdjan Djokovic said he was in Melbourne “only to support my son” and “had no intention of causing any such headlines or disruption”.
“I was outside with Novak’s fans, as I have after all my son’s matches celebrating his wins and taking pictures with them. I had no intention of getting caught up in this,” he said.
“My family has lived through the horrors of war and we wish nothing but peace.”
He added that he would watch his son’s semi-final against American star Tommy Paul from home on Friday “so that there is no disruption … to my son or the other player.”
Novak Djokovic will not comment on the situation, his management told CNN.
Earlier on Friday, the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia had urged the player to state his position on the war. He said the incident with his father amounted to a “provocation” and “casts a negative light on Novak himself as he prepares for his semifinal.”
“I think it is important for him to make a strong statement about his position on this war, to dispel the speculation, 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 his father’s sins, but perhaps he has the same opinion as his father. I think the world needs to know where he stands.”
Tennis Australia has confirmed four people have been banned from the tournament on Wednesday for showing pro-war imagery.
Under Australian Open rules Russian and Belarusian flags are prohibited of the event.
Tennis Australia has a “neutral flag” policy and re-emphasized this during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.