Novak Djokovic’s father posed with a Russian nationalist holding a flag with Vladimir Putin’s face and wearing a controversial Z T-shirt at the Australian Open. The Ukrainian ambassador has already condemned scenes he branded a “disgrace” at Melbourne Park on Wednesday where Serbian and Russian fans were seen chanting together and holdings flags.
Players from Russia and Belarusia are allowed to compete here under a neutral flag but national symbols are forbidden following the invasion of Ukraine.
Now shocking images have appeared on social media – from a user calling himself Aussie Cossack – showing Srdjan Djokovic, the father of the nine-time Australian Open champion, with the Russian fans. They appear to say: “Long Live Russia”.
The Djokovic family is never far from controversy and the No.4 seed was again heckled during his quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday night. He will next play – and speak – in his semi-final against American Tommy Paul on Friday.
Srdjan Djokovic appeared to be saying: “Long live Russian citizens”.
A picture has also emerged of a fan wearing a Z T-shirt – the symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine – in the Rod Laver Arena during the Djokovic-Rublev match on Wednesday night.
Former Ukrainian pro Alex Dolgopolov, who is now fighting in the war in his homeland, tweeted: “This guy will get banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right? @AustralianOpen”.
Ukrainian ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko had already criticised Russian fans after the first day here when a group of men attending the first round match between Ukrainian Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova showed a Russian flag. He then called on Tennis Australia to enforce their “neutral flag” policy.
Condemning the latest display, he said: “It’s a full package. Among the Serbian flags, there is a Russian flag, Putin, Z-symbol or chanting pro-Russian songs. It’s such a disgrace.”
Russian Karen Khachanov will play Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other men’s semi-final on Friday.
Police Victoria said: “Police spoke to four men after a Russian flag was produced on the steps at the tennis about 10.20pm on Wednesday 25 January. All four men were evicted.”
Srdjan Djokovic is no stranger to controversy.
As a press conference following his son’s deportation from Australia last January, he said: “The attempt to assassinate the best athlete in the world has ended. 50 bullets in Novak’s chest.”
The Z-symbol t-shirts and flags are now being seen more commonly as a method of support for the current Russian regime and the war against Ukraine.
Russian forces often use the letter ‘Z’ as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine, allowing soldiers to distinguish themselves from other forces, and it has since been used as an intimidation tactic against those who oppose the war.
Security were caught on camera speaking to the supporter, although he was seemingly allowed to stay in his seat until Djokovic’s three-set win was sealed over Moscow-born Rublev.
Footage shot from outside Rod Laver Arena showed a group of fans celebrating with Russian flags on show, along with people wearing ‘Z’ t-shirts and pro-Putin displays.
Multiple Aussie Open spectators have since been questioned by Victoria Police after allegedly threatening security guards following the quarter-final between Rublev and Djokovic.