Novak Djokovic has defended his father and said he did not intend to pose for pictures with supporters of Vladimir Putin at the Australian Open.
Djokovic’s father Srdjan caused controversy on Wednesday when he was filmed standing next to a Russian flag with Putin’s face on it, and a man who wore the ‘Z’ logo that indicates support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Srdjan Djokovic insisted on Friday that he was unwittingly caught up in the pro-Russian demonstration, which took place in Melbourne Park following Djokovic’s quarter-final victory over the Russian player Andrey Rublev.
Djokovic’s father did not attend his son’s semi-final match against Tommy Paul as he did not want to be a “disruption” and the Serbian explained after the match that the images were a “misinterpretation” of what happened.
Djokovic said his father unknowingly stopped to greet the pro-Russian demonstrators, thinking they were holding Serbian flags. The 35-year-old also refuted allegations that his father had said “Long live Russia” when leaving the group, insisting the phrase had been mistranslated.
Djokovic 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 the tournament director, with the media and everyone else. It has got to me, of course, as well.
“I was not aware of it until last night. Then, of course, I was not pleased to see that. My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the ‘90s.
“As my father put in a statement, 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.
“That’s the first thing I want to say. The second thing I want to say, my father, as he said in the statement, has been going after every single match to meet with my fans at the main square here in the Australian Open, to thank them for the support, to be with them, pay them respect, and take photos.
“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. My father, as I said, was passing through. There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That’s what he thought. He thought he was taking a photo with somebody from Serbia. That’s it.
“Of course, it’s not pleasant for me to go through this with all the things that I had to deal with last year and this year in Australia. It’s not something that I want or need. I hope that people will let it be, and we can focus on tennis.”
He added: “There was no intention. It can happen. 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 has happened in the last 24 hours, 48 hours.”