Novak Djokovic's father in conspicuous absence from Australian Open semi-final

Srdjan Djokovic has responded to Tennis Australia as his son Novak prepares for his Australian Open semi-final.

Pro-Russia demonstrators outside the Australian Open are pictured on the left, with Srdjan Djokovic pictured right.
Srdjan Djokovic has issued a statement after being warned about his actions by Tennis Australia, after being photographed with disruptive Russia supporters outside the Australian Open. Pictures: Twitter/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan opted to stay away from the Australian Open semi-final on Friday night after being warned about his conduct by Tennis Australia. The elder Djokovic was caught in photographs with disruptive pro-Russia spectators after his son's quarter-final victory on Wednesday night.

Four spectators were questioned by Victoria Police after sporting Russia flags featuring Vladimir Putin's face, while some were seen wearing shirts with the pro-war 'Z' symbol on them. Tennis Australia previously announced that Russia flags - both past and present - were completely banned from the grounds at Melbourne Park.

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Serbian star Djokovic beat Rublev of Russia in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night. Djokovic's father was later seen mingling with the pro-Russia supporters, who could be heard chanting 'Serbia, Russia'.

Srdjan posed for photos with the pro-Russia supporters, some of whom were wearing the 'Z' symbol. He briefly spoke to camera in Serbian before he walked off.

On Friday, The Telegraph reported that Tennis Australia had warned Djokovic over his father's actions. The governing body reportedly warned Djokovic and his family to not promote any more political causes.

Later On Friday, Srdjan Djokovic posted a statement saying it had not been his intention to get caught up in such controversy. He also added he and his family understood the unnecessary consequences of war, and revealed he had decided not to attend Friday night's match.

“I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption,” the statement read. “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 semi-final 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.”

The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia had earlier called for Srdjan to be banned from Friday night's semi-final between Djokovic and Tommy Paul, as well as Sunday’s final. Vasyl Myroshnychenko said Tennis Australia should ban Srdjan for "such a disgrace", while also demanding an apology from Djokovic.

An Australian Open spectator, pictured here wearing a shirt with the 'Z' symbol.
An Australian Open spectator wearing a shirt with the 'Z' symbol. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

He told the Herald Sun: "Is up to Tennis Australia to take action. I think it would be a very good idea not to let him in. I don't know why he would say something like that considering what the Russians are doing in Ukraine, how many people they have killed, tortured, raped and all the summary executions that have happened against civilians.”

Myroshnychenko added: "This whole Australian Open tournament since the beginning was a controversy, around the participation of the Russian players, then the flags, now we've seen this provocation. It was further aggravated by the comments Djokovic's dad has made. Djokovic is a superstar and he's the number one celebrity in the tennis world, so it's very disappointing to see his father supporting Russia."

After the controversial video of Djokovic's father was posted on social media, Tennis Australia issued a statement asking players to avoid any situations with "the potential to disrupt". The statement said: "A small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards following a match on Wednesday night and were evicted. One patron is now assisting police with unrelated matters.

"Players and their teams have been briefed and reminded of the event policy regarding flags and symbols and to avoid any situation that has the potential to disrupt. We continue to work closely with event security and law enforcement agencies."

'Disgusting' Australian Open scenes condemned by former star

Retired Ukrainian player Alexander Dolgopolov, who is now serving in his country's army, labelled the pro-Russia supporters at the Australian Open as 'disgusting'. He wrote on Twitter: “This guy will get banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right? Seems he was not the only one. Tennis Australia, what’s going on there?”

Tennis Australia had initially allowed Russian flags at the Australian Open as long as they weren't used to 'disrupt'. However they later banned them entirely after complaints from Myroshnychenko and many others.

Players from Russia and Belarus were banned from playing at Wimbledon in 2022 due to Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The ATP and WTA tours opposed the move and stripped the grand slam of rankings points as a result.

Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete at the Australian Open, but have been doing so as 'neutral' athletes. Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka will play in the women's final on Saturday night, while her compatriot Victoria Azarenka made the semi-final before losing to Elena Rybakena. Russian player Karen Khachanov will play Stefanos Tsistipas in the men's semi-finals on Friday night.

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