MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic‘s father, Srdjan Djokovic, was not in attendance for his son’s Australian Open semifinal against Tommy Paul, saying in a statement Friday that he does not want to be a “disruption” to the match.
Following Novak Djokovic’s quarterfinal win over Russian Andrey Rublev on Wednesday evening, Srdjan Djokovic was filmed outside Rod Laver Arena posing and interacting with a group of supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a video posted to YouTube on Thursday, Srdjan Djokovic posed next to a man holding a Russian flag with Putin’s face on it and wearing a T-shirt with the “Z” symbol that has become synonymous with support for the war in Ukraine.
“I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption,” Srdjan Djokovic said in a statement ahead of the semifinals at Melbourne Park. “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.
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.
“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semifinal 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.”
Djokovic defeated Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 and will play for his 10th Australian Open title Sunday. He will face world No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Afterward, Djokovic defended his father, saying there was “absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that” and adding that he was sorry the whole episode “escalated so much.” He said he wasn’t sure whether his father would attend Sunday’s final.
Australian Open director Craig Tiley told The Herald Sun in Melbourne that no decision would be made on allowing Srdjan Djokovic to attend the final until Sunday.
“I couldn’t give you a definitive answer now,” Tiley said. “We’re in a different situation, and [on Sunday] night, whether or not that has an impact on it or not … I think the decision not to be there on Friday night was on the fact that there was a lot of intensity around that action.
“[Srdjan] was very clear that he had absolutely no intent for this to happen. And that there was no purposeful position to do it.”
Tennis Australia initially allowed Russian and Belarusian flags to be brought into Melbourne Park but reversed the decision on Day 2 of the tournament, banning them along with any flags or items of clothing featuring either the Russian Eagles or “Z” symbol.
Victoria Police continue to investigate four people who broke these rules during Djokovic’s quarterfinal against Rublev, including the man in the video.
“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,” Tennis Australia said Friday in its own statement.
“We will continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia,” the group added. “Tennis Australia stands with the call for peace and an end to war and violent conflict in Ukraine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.