Novak Djokovic has defended father Srjdan’s Australian Open Russian flag picture scandal, with the 10-time finalist saying his dad was done in by circumstance.
The elder Djokovic was filmed on Wednesday with a group of fans, one unfurling a flag depicting Vladimir Putin while wearing a “Z” t-shirt denoting support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Djokovic says it was all just a misunderstanding and that his father had no idea what was going on as he mingled with fans after the quarter-final match.
“It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened has escalated to such a high level,” he said after beating Tommy Paul to reach the final.
“He was passing through. I (also) heard what he said in the video. He said “Cheers.”
“Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way (“long live Russian citizens” ).
“I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives.
“There were Serbian flags around. That’s what he thought. He thought he was making a photo with somebody from Serbia. That’s it. He moved on.”
Djokovic – deported from Australia a year ago for refusing to get vaxxed for COVID – lamented dealing with another off-court drama as he aims for a record 10th trophy on Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“It’s not pleasant for me to go through this with all the things that I had to deal with last year and this year in Australia.
“It’s not something that I want or need. I hope that people will let it be, and we can focus on tennis.”
Even as Djokovic tries to roll back the controversy, the images are already at work as propaganda for the Putin regime.
A pro-Russian Australian YouTube account posted the photo with the caption: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
Djokovic’s Serbia has long been Russia’s strongest ally in Europe and is refusing to participate in worldwide sanctions against Russia to protest the invasion which began last February 23.