WATCH: Emotional Novak Djokovic makes his point at press conference
Novak Djokovic admitted he has been shaken by the storm around his father after he was photographed with pro-Russian fans at the Australian Open.
The Serbian will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday in his 33rd grand slam final bidding to equal Rafael Nadal’s record tally of 22 titles, while the winner will overtake Carlos Alcaraz as world number one.
His 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over American Tommy Paul looks straightforward on the scoreboard but it certainly did not feel that way when Djokovic lost four games in a row from 5-1 up in the opening set.
Yet it was clear from an emotional press conference that he has been seriously affected by the incident with his father.
Srdjan Djokovic released a statement on Friday saying he had been unwittingly caught up in the pro-Russia demonstration as he took pictures with his son’s fans and had decided not to attend the match to ensure there was “no disruption”.
Djokovic Sr was included as part of a YouTube video released by a Russian activist. The subtitles on the video stated Srdjan Djokovic had made a pro-Russia comment, but Serbian media translated it simply as him bidding the men farewell.
Speaking at a press conference, Djokovic said: “It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened has escalated to such a high level. There was a lot of conversations with the 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. 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.
“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.
“There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That’s what he thought. He thought he was making a photo with somebody from Serbia.
“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.”
A decision has not yet been made over whether Djokovic’s father will attend the final.
“He was misused in this situation by this group of people,” said Djokovic. “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.
“After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that’s going to reflect on me.
“Of course, it wasn’t pleasant not to have him in the box. It’s a decision that we made together. Just didn’t know how things will play out, I guess. I hope he’s going to be feeling OK to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the finals.”
Djokovic was clearly affected by the controversy and his confession that he wanted to avoid any such headlines after he was deported from Australia over his Covid-19 vaccine status last year.
Now he has made this appeal to those planning to attend the final on Sunday.
“I hope that all people coming to the final are there for tennis,” he added. “That’s what we all wish for.
“We want fans to focus on tennis and celebrate this beautiful sport. This is a Slam final. I’m really excited and privileged to be to in it.
“I don’t think there is going to be any conflict on and off the court in terms of the crowd. I hope people will support their player in a respectful way. Let’s see what happens.”
If Djokovic wanted to avoid controversy at this Australian Open, his father has helped to ensure that will not be possible.
Even if this was an accident that has been blown up by the media in the last 48 hours, the images made for horrible viewing.
Yet Djokovic should be commended for speaking so eloquently about the incident with a media pack he clearly blames for much of this latest controversy.
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