Novak Djokovic accuses fans of ‘misusing’ his dad in pro-Putin Australian Open protest | Tennis | Sport

Before the nine-time champion faces American Tommy Paul in today’s semi-final, Srdjan Djokovic has issued a statement – and said he will not be in the Rod Laver Arena to avoid “disruption” to the match. The nine-time champion argued with the umpire and lost a 5-1 lead in the first set before beating Tommy Paul 7-5 6-1 6-2 to set up a Sunday showdown with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.

But Djokovic, who is back in Australia after getting deported last year, said the latest controversy had taken its toll as he seeks a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title. The Serb superstar said: “I saw, as everybody else saw, what happened yesterday. It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level. 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 till 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 ’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. That’s the first thing I want to say.”

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He continued: “The second thing I want to say, 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 in Australian Open, to thank them for the support, to be with them, pay them respect, and make photos.

“The photo that he made, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said, Cheers. Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way.

“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, as I said, 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.

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“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.”

Asked if his father will return to the Rod Laver Arena to watch the final, Djokovic added: “Let’s see. Of course, it wasn’t, again, pleasant not to have him in the box. It’s a decision that we made together. Just didn’t know how things will play out, I guess. Yeah, 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.”

Djokovic was also asked if he had spoken to his father about his future actions. The Serb responded: “There was no intention. Now you’re basically asking me a question like he did it intentionally, like he’s not being careful about what he’s doing. It can happen. It can happen to many people what happened to him.

“He was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people. That’s what happened.

“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, and that’s it. That’s all that happened.

“After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that’s going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, 48 hours. But it is what it is. You accept it and you move on.”