Novak Djokovic says it's "really wrong" how the coverage around his father Srdjan has escalated at the Australian Open after the Serb's father was captured posing with pro-Russia spectators after his son's quarter-final victory earlier in the week. The elder Djokovic decided to stay away from Melbourne Park on Friday night and watched the nine-time champion's semi-final victory over Tommy Paul from off site, in the wake of the furore around him.
Djokovic stormed into his 10th Australian Open final with a clinical 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over American surprise packet Paul, who was playing in his first grand slam semi-final. However, his father Srdjan was nowhere to be seen after opting to stay away due the controversy that he unwittingly stirred up.
On Wednesday night, Srdjan posed for photos with pro-Russia fans sporting various flags from the country, some of whom were wearing t-shirts with the pro-war 'Z' symbol and photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin on them. Tennis Australia previously announced that Russian flags - both past and present - were completely banned from the grounds at Melbourne Park.
Ukraine's ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, had called for Srdjan to be banned from the Open, despite the elder Djokovic insisting that it was a misunderstanding and that he was in no way supportive of any war effort, having lived through the horrors of war in his native Serbia. Following his semi-final victory over Paul on Friday night, Djokovic launched a passionate defence of his father, admitting the ugly saga and the uproar around his father had "got to" the 35-year-old.
"It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened has escalated to such a high level," he told reporters. "There was, I would say, a lot of conversations with tournament director, with media and everyone else.
"It has got to me, of course, as well. I was not aware of it until last night. Then, of course, I was not pleased to see that.
"My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the '90s. "As my father put in a statement, we are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war.
Djokovic explained that his father thought he was mingling with fans from Serbia after Wednesday's win against his Russian opponent in Wednesday's quarter-final. The 21-time major winner also refuted any suggestions that his father had expressed his support for Russia or its war against Ukraine.
Media portrayal of Novak Djokovic's father 'wrong'
"I heard what he said in the video. He said, 'cheers'. Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way," Djokovic said. "I'm sorry that that has escalated so much.
"But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that. My father was passing through. There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That's what he thought. He thought he was making photo with somebody from Serbia. That's it. He moved on.
"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. I hope that people will let it be, and we can focus on tennis."
When pressed further about his father's actions, Djokovic claimed Srdjan was "misused" by the pro-Russia supporters. The 35-year-old said while the ugly saga has proven an unwanted distraction - especially after last year's deportation controversy - he is by no means mad at his father.
"There was no intention ... he was misused in this situation by this group of people," he added. "I can't be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans.
"After that, he felt bad and he knew how that's going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that has happened in the last 24, 48 hours."
Djokovic was unsure whether his father would be courtside for Sunday's final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
"Let's see," Djokovic said. "I hope to have him. I hope he's going to be feeling okay to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the finals."
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