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Novak Djokovic breaks silence on father’s Australian Open absence following Russian flag controversy

Despite a ban on Russian flags, Novak Djokovic’s father got caught up in the controversy when on Wednesday images of him posing with pro-Russian fans began circulating on social media.

Novak Djokovic advanced in the Australian Open on Friday after defeating American Tommy Paul in straight sets, but with a record 10 titles on the line for the Serbian tennis pro, Djokovic took time to address the controversy surrounding his father who was seen posing with fans holding Russian flags on Wednesday.

Djokovic spoke about the matter with the media following his 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 victory in the semifinal, calling it a "misinterpretation" of what actually happened. 

"It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level," he explained. 


"I was not aware of it until last night. And, of course, I was not pleased to see that. My father, my whole family, and myself have been through several wars during the '90s so as my father put in the statement – we’re against the war. We will never support any violence or any war, we know how devastating that is for the family – the people in any country that is going through the war." 

Pictures and videos circulating on social media showed Srdjan Djokovic standing with a group of people waving Russian flags — at least one showing an image of Russian President Vladimir Putin — outside the main stadium after Djokovic's quarterfinal victory over Russian player Andrey Rublev.

At least one man was seen wearing the pro-Russian "Z" on his shirt. 


As a result, Srdjan Djokovic released a statement saying he would be sitting out of his son’s semifinal match "so there is no disruption."

Djokovic explained that his father was simply posing with Serbian fans as he always does, unaware of what was happening around him.

"My father, as he said in the statement, has been going after every single match to meet with my fans at the main square here at the Australian Open to thank them for the support and to be with them, pay them respect, and [take] photos," he said. 

"And the photo that he [took], he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video – he said ‘cheers’ and unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way. So, I’m sorry that that has escalated so much, but I hope that people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that."

Djokovic said he would like to have his father present for his final match against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday but has not made a decision with his father yet. 

"Of course 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, and I hope that people will let it be, and we can focus on tennis."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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