Novak Djokovic’s father won’t attend semi-final after flag furore – ‘I had no intention of being caught up in this’

Srdjan Djokovic, father of Novak Djokovic, at a press conference

Novak Djokovic’s father has insisted he was unwittingly caught up in a pro-Russian demonstration at the Australian Open but has decided not to attend his son’s semi-final against Tommy Paul.

A video on a Russian activist’s YouTube channel emerged on Thursday showing Srdjan Djokovic standing with a man holding a Russian flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it and wearing a t-shit bearing the Z symbol that demonstrates support for the war in Ukraine.

Serbian tennis reporters have been able to verify that it was almost certainly Djokovic’s father.

In a statement released by the tennis star’s representatives ahead of Friday’s last-four clash, Mr Djokovic senior said: “I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption.

“I was outside with Novak’s fans as I have done after all of my son’s matches to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being caught up in this.

“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace. So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home.

“I wish for a great match and I will be cheering for my son, as always.”

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Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia on Thursday slammed the scenes as “a disgrace”.

Vasyl Myroshnychenko stated that Djokovic should clarify whether he personally supports the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Age newspaper reported Srdjan said in Serbian: “Long live Russia.”

Although Serbian journalist Saša Ozmo has corrected it, writing on Twitter: “I have seen a lot of incorrect translations yesterday, what Srdjan Djokovic says is “Živeli, ljudi”, which in this context translates to “cheers, guys” and means “goodbye” at the same time. #AustralianOpen.”

The 21-time Grand Slam winner’s parents have travelled to Australia for the first time since his first title in 2008 to offer support to their son following his deportation last year.

A number of Russia supporters gathered on the steps outside Rod Laver Arena following Djokovic’s quarter-final victory over Russian Andrey Rublev.

Waving flags and chanting “Russia, Serbia”, they were eventually tackled by security, with four people questioned by police over the flags and threatening security guards.

According to witnesses, after the match the group of fans unfurled Russian flags near the stadium, including one featuring Putin’s face, they are also alleged to have chanted pro-Russian slogans.

When uploaded the image was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”