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Monday, January 30, 2023

Djokovic’s father filmed with fans holding the Russian flag at the Australian Open

FeaturedSports NewsDjokovic's father filmed with fans holding the Russian flag at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic’s father has been filmed waving the banned Russian flag at the Australian Open with fans, including Vladimir Putin, in scenes that Ukraine’s ambassador shouted as “disrespectful” on Thursday.

Serbian star Djokovic defeated Russian rival Andrey Rublev in straight sets at the Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.

After the match, a group of fans near the stadium waved Russian flags — which are banned at Melbourne Park — and chanted pro-Russian and pro-Putin slogans.

Tennis Australia said the four men “displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards”. Police were called and they were escorted out of Melbourne Park.

A video later posted on a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account showed Djokovic’s father, Sardjan, posing with a man holding a Russian flag with President Putin on it.

The man with the flag is wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a “Z” — a symbol supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The video is titled: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”

Serbian tennis reporters confirmed it was Djokovic’s father and the Melbourne Age newspaper reported that he said in Serbian: “Long live Russia.”

Spectators have been banned from carrying Russian or Belarusian flags at Grand Slams after Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasyl Myroshnichenko, called for action last week after they were seen in the crowd.

At the time, the Russian embassy in Australia hit back, calling it “another example of the unacceptable politics of sports”.

“The latest incident is shameful,” Myroshnychenko said on Twitter on Thursday.

“This is a complete package. Among the flags of Serbia, here are: a Russian flag, Putin, Z-symbol, flag of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic,” he tweeted with a link to the video.

“This is such a disrespect… @TennisAustralia @AustralianOpen.”

Lesia Sorenko of Ukraine, who lost in the first round of the Australian Open, tweeted: “There are no words to say.”

AFP photographed another man wearing a pro-war “Z” T-shirt during Djokovic’s match.

Former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov, who is currently fighting in the war, asked on Twitter: “This guy will be banned for life, at least for all events in Australia, right? @AustralianOpen.”

– honor –

Ahead of the Djokovic-Rubleau match, YouTube channel Simon Boykov, who posted the footage, urged Russian supporters to protest the flag ban at Melbourne Park.

“This is now about honor and dignity. This is an attack on honor and dignity. It has nothing to do with war,” he said in a video message.

“The Russian Empire has banned its flag,” he added. “Well guess what Tennis Australia? Good luck when the Empire returns.”

Tournament organizer Tennis Australia said Thursday it would continue to work with security to enforce entry rules, without directly addressing the incident with Djokovic’s father.

“Athletes and their teams have been informed of the event’s policy regarding flags and symbols and reminded to avoid any situation that is likely to cause disruption,” it said.

“We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian and Belarusian players usually compete independently under a neutral white flag, as in the Australian Open.

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