Andy Murray on Novak Djokovic remark: No athlete should be stopped from freedom of speech

Novak Djokovic jovial

Former world No 1 Andy Murray has defended Serbian Novak Djokovic’s right to freedom of speech after a controversial remark at the French Open earlier this month.

Djokovic courted controversy after writing “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia! Stop violence” on a camera at Roland Garros this week.

The Kosovo Tennis Federation and Kosovo Olympic Committee have since requested Djokovic be sanctioned for the comment.

“No athlete should be stopped from freedom of speech, I don’t think that’s fair. You often hear athletes, journalists, and commentators say that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, but they do,” Murray told The Telegraph.

“When politics have supposedly influenced decisions that have been harmful to sportspeople’s careers they argue sports and politics should not mix. But then they’re more than happy to talk on matters that they agree with.

“In many countries, prime ministers and government officials celebrate athletes’ victories and big wins. They’re always around at sporting events and it is a privilege to be invited to the White House or Downing Street.

“We have a responsibility as athletes to try and bring people together and not necessarily to divide each other.”

On Friday, Djokovic was jeered by the crowd during a third-round fixture against Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Djokovic, who is pursuing a third French Open title, won the match in straight sets.

“A majority of the people come to enjoy tennis or support one or the other player. But they are individuals. There are people – there are groups or whatever – that love to boo every single thing you do. That’s something that I find disrespectful and I frankly don’t understand that,” said the 36-year-old.

“At times, you know, I will stay quiet. Sometimes I will oppose that, because I feel when somebody is disrespectful, he or she deserves to have an answer to that. That’s what it is all about, I think.”

This year’s French Open is without 14-time champion Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined by hip surgery, and second Daniil Medvedev, who was ousted by Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild earlier this week.

“Obviously, Nadal not playing in the tournament here is a big loss for tennis, is a big loss for Roland Garros, because he’s by far the most successful player to play in this tournament in the history. So of course, it opens up a chance, an opportunity for the rest of us to try to get a title,” said Djokovic.

READ MORE: Rafael Nadal’s expected recovery time revealed following successful hip surgery