Novak Djokovic’s father was filmed posing with fans waving banned Russian flags at the Australian Open, including one featuring Vladimir Putin, in scenes the Ukrainian ambassador called a ‘disgrace’ on Thursday . Serbian star Djokovic had just booked his place in the semi-finals of the tournament with Russian opponent Andrey Rublev at the Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night. After the match, a group of supporters unfurled Russian flags – which are banned from Melbourne Park – near the stadium and chanted pro-Russian and pro-Putin slogans.
Tennis Australia said four people “revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards”. The police were called and they were evicted from Melbourne Park.
A video later posted to a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account showed Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, posing with a man holding a Russian flag bearing the likeness of President Putin.
It was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
It’s… quite a mess for the #AusOpenTo say the least.
Srdjan Djokovic posing with the pro-Putin rally last night just outside the Rod Laver Arena.
The levels of security failures that have enabled this are staggering.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 26, 2023
It seems he wasn’t the only one. @TennisAustralia
What is happening here? https://t.co/ZuAQ1kNHmU
— Alex Dolgopolov (@TheDolgo) January 25, 2023
Serbian tennis journalists confirmed it was Djokovic’s father and the Melbourne Age newspaper reported that he said in Serbian: “Long live Russia”.
Spectators are banned from carrying Russian or Belarusian flags at the Grand Slam after Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Vasyl Myroshnychenko demanded action when they were seen among the crowd last week .
At the time, the Russian Embassy in Australia hit back, calling it “another example of the unacceptable politicization of sport”.
Myroshnychenko said on Twitter on Thursday that the latest incident was shameful.
“It’s a complete package. Among the Serbian flags are: a Russian flag, Putin, symbol Z, so-called Donetsk People’s Republic flag,” he tweeted with a link to the video .
“It’s such a shame… @TennisAustralia @AustralianOpen.”
Ukrainian player Lesia Tsurenko, who was beaten in the first round of the Australian Open, tweeted: “No words to say.”
Another man was photographed by AFP inside the stadium during Djokovic’s game wearing a pro-war “Z” symbol t-shirt.
Former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov, who is currently fighting in the war, asked on Twitter: “This guy will be banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right? @AustralianOpen.”
Ahead of the Djokovic-Rublev match, Simeon Boikov, who runs the YouTube channel that posted the footage, had urged Russian fans to descend on Melbourne Park to protest the flag ban.
“It’s about honor and dignity now. It’s an attack on honor and dignity. It has nothing to do with war,” he said in a video message.
“The Russian Empire has had its flag banned,” he added. “Well guess what Tennis Australia? Good luck when the empire hits back.”
Tournament organizer Tennis Australia said on Thursday it would continue to work with security to enforce entry rules, without directly addressing the incident with Djokovic’s father.
“Players and their teams have been informed and reminded of the event’s policy regarding flags and symbols and avoiding any potentially disruptive situation,” he said.
“We continue to work closely with event security agencies and law enforcement.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian and Belarusian players have normally competed under a neutral white flag as independents, as is the case at the Australian Open.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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