Novak Djokovic clarifies controversial Kosovo political message – ‘I would do it again’

Shahida Jacobs
Novak Djokovic message
Novak Djokovic after match

Novak Djokovic scribbled what appeared to be a simple message on the camera lens after his first-round win at Roland Garros on Monday, but it has not gone down well with everyone as there have been “many objections on social media”.

The third seed kicked off his bid for a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam with a solid 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Aleksandar Kovacevic and once all was said and done he wrote “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence” in Serbian on the camera.

There were complaints about the message in some quarters as the Republic of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and it is recognised by more than 100 countries as a sovereign state. Serbia, meanwhile, says Kosovo remains part of its territory.

Kosovo has been hit by major protests and violence in recent weeks and Djokovic wanted to make it clear that he is “against wars, violence and any kind of conflict”, hence the message on the camera.

Post-match he spoke to Serbian media and is quoted as saying by Tennis Majors: “I am not a politician and I don’t have the intention to get into political debate. That topic is very sensitive… As a Serb, everything that’s happening in Kosovo hurts me a lot.

“This is the least I could have done. I feel the responsibility as a public figure – doesn’t matter in which field – to give support… Especially as a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to them and to Serbia. I don’t know what the future brings for Serbian people and for Kosovo, but it’s necessary to show support and demonstrate unity in these kinds of situations.”

There had been suggestions he could be punished for writing a political message, but the 22-time Grand Slam winner won’t back down.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen – I heard that there have been many objections on social media – whether I will be punished… I am not holding back, I would do it again,” he said.

“My stance is clear: I am against wars, violence and any kind of conflict, as I’ve always stated publicly. I empathise with all people, but the situation with Kosovo is a precedent in international law… I am very sorry for the situation that we are in – Kosovo is our hearthstone, our stronghold, our most important monasteries are there…”

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