Australian Open: Djokovic defends his father over pro-Putin group video – 'I can't be angry at him'

By Sports Desk January 27, 2023

Novak Djokovic insists his father did not intend to pose for pictures with supporters of Vladimir Putin and is hoping he will be able to attend Sunday's Australian Open final.

Srdjan Djokovic was not present at Rod Laver Arena for his son's 7-5 6-1 6-2 win over Tommy Paul on Friday, which set up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 62-year-old announced in a statement ahead of the match that he was staying away to avoid creating any "disruption for my son or for the other player".

It comes on the back of Srdjan being pictured standing next to a Russian flag with Putin's face on it, and a man whose t-shirt indicated support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But Novak, who is chasing a 10th grand slam title in Australia and a record-equalling 22nd men's singles major overall, believes the situation has been taken out of context.

"There was no intention," Djokovic said after beating Paul. "You're basically asking me a question like he did it intentionally, like he's not being careful about what he's doing. 

"It can happen to many people what happened to him. He was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people. 

"That's what happened. I can't be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans, and that's it. That's all that happened. 

"After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that's going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that's happened in the last 48 hours.

"But it is what it is. You accept it and you move on."

Elaborating on the incident, he said: "The photo that he made, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said 'cheers'. 

"Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way. I'm sorry that that has escalated so much. 

"But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that.

"There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That's what he thought. He thought he was making photo with somebody from Serbia. That's it. He moved on."

Asked if he expects his father to be back in the stadium for Sunday's final, Djokovic said: "Let's see. It wasn't pleasant not to have him in the box today. 

"It's a decision that we made together. We just didn't know how things would play out, I guess.

"But yeah, I hope to have him [there for the final]. I hope he's going to be feeling okay to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the final."

Djokovic argued with the umpire and appeared to completely lose focus as he let a 5-1 lead slip in the opening set, but he responded well en route to a straight-sets victory.

And the Serbian, who has still never lost either a semi-final or a final at the first major of the season, admitted the controversy surrounding his father impacted his performance.

"I saw, as everybody else saw, what happened yesterday," he said. "It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level. 

"There was, I would say, a lot of conversations with tournament director, with media and everyone else. It has got to me, of course, as well. I was not aware of it until last night. 

"My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the 90s. As my father said, we are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. 

"We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war."

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