Srdjan Djokovic, the father of Novak Djokovic, did not attend his son’s Australian Open semi-final against Tommy Paul, after insisting he had “no intention of being caught up” in any disruption after being filmed with pro-Vladimir Putin spectators on Wednesday night.
“I am here to support my son only,” he said in a statement. “I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption.”
After Novak Djokovic’s quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev of Russia, Djokovic’s father was filmed interacting with pro-Putin supporters, who had congregated outside Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic Sr took photographs with a spectator who wore a “Z” symbol T-shirt while holding a Russian flag with a large photo of Vladimir Putin’s face.
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“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,” he said. “My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.”
Alongside his wife, Dijana, Srdjan Djokovic has been present at his son’s matches throughout the week, but said he would watch from home as Novak attempted to reach his 10th Australian Open final, which the Serbian did via a straight-sets victory over Paul.
“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,” his statement said.
Shortly after he left the arena on Wednesday, four spectators were questioned by police after allegedly threatening security. The spectators were eventually ejected from the venue, but Tennis Australia has received criticism over the security protocols that allowed them to shout pro-Putin chants inside the stadium.
Tennis Australia defended its actions in a statement on Friday afternoon.
“After the events of Wednesday night, we acted swiftly to work with police and our security teams to have the instigators of the protest removed from the venue,” the statement said. “Throughout the event we’ve spoken with players and their teams about the importance of not engaging in any activity that causes distress or disruption.
“Mr Srdjan Djokovic has issued a statement confirming that he will not attend tonight’s semi-final. We will continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia. Tennis Australia stands with the call for peace and an end to war and violent conflict in Ukraine.”