Ukraine’s ambassador to Canberra on Friday demanded Australian Open organizers withdraw the accreditation of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, who was filmed with supporters waving pro flags -Russians.
“He should have his accreditation withdrawn. It’s up to Novak and his team to take matters into their own hands and sort this out,” the ambassador, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said indignantly.
Mr Myroshnychenko also called on Novak Djokovic, who was preparing to face American Tommy Paul in the semi-finals of the tournament on Friday, to personally apologize and clarify his position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It is important that Novak addresses this situation,” he stressed. “He should apologize for what happened and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
A video posted on a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account on Thursday showed Srdjan Djokovic posing outside the stadium with a man holding a Russian flag with the face of President Vladimir Putin.
The video was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
Serbian sports journalists have confirmed that it was indeed Djokovic-father.
Another man was pictured inside the stadium during a Djokovic game wearing a T-shirt bearing the pro-war Russian symbol ‘Z’.
According to Mr Myroshnychenko, this new non-sporting controversy could overshadow Djokovic’s performances during the tournament this year, a year after he was expelled from Australia for trying to enter the country without being vaccinated against Covid-19.
“At the last Open, we only talked about Djokovic,” said the Ukrainian diplomat. “Now we only talk about Russian flags and Djokovic too”.
Former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov, who is currently fighting with his country’s army, called Djokovic-father’s behavior on Twitter “absolutely disgusting”.
Banned Russian flags
Last week, Ambassador Myroshnychenko helped persuade Australian Open organizers to ban Russian and Belarusian flags from the stands during the tournament.
The Russian Embassy in Australia called the ban “a new example of unacceptable politicization of sport”.
Simeon Boïkov, an Australian pro-Putin activist behind this video posted on YouTube, had urged Russian fans to descend on Melbourne Park, near the stadium where the tournament is taking place, before Djokovic’s quarter-final match against Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.
“Now it’s about honor and dignity. It is an attack on honor and dignity. It has nothing to do with the war,” he said in a video message, apparently in reference to the ban on Russian flags.
Australia’s opposition leader Peter Dutton described the behavior of Djokovic’s father as “weird”.
“The Russian onslaught continues and, frankly, anyone of good will should try to deter, not encourage, President Putin,” he told Australia’s Nine Network.
Open organizer Tennis Australia said on Thursday it would continue to work with security to enforce entry rules, without directly mentioning the incident with Djokovic’s father.
“Players and their teams have been briefed and reminded of the event’s policy regarding flags and symbols and that they should avoid any situation that could disrupt the tournament,” he said. “We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian and Belarusian players usually participate in competitions as independents and under neutral white flags. This is the case at the Australian Open.