Another day, another scandal for Novak Djokovic, but this time it is completely out of his control.
Last night his father, Srdjan, was filmed posing with Russian fans carrying flags with the face of Vladimir Putin on them, vocalising their support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The group was seen at Melbourne Park during Djokovic’s 6-1 6-2 6-4 win over Andrey Rublev as he progressed to a tenth Australian Open semifinal.
They were eventually thrown out by security.
Before they were ejected however, Srdjan stopped to take photographs with the group, consisting of Russian flags and a plethora of shirts with the infamous Z symbol depicted on the front, a logo embodying the support of the Ukrainian invasion.
Djokovic senior then appeared to say ’zivejli Russiyani’ to the men, which when translated means cheers to the Russian cause or ‘long live the Russians’.
It is another blow to the image of the Djokovic family, who have been at the epicentre of some of tennis’ most controversial narratives in recent years, and the outspoken Srdjan has been known to pour fuel on the fire.
This latest gaffe comes after Tennis Australia (TA) banned Russian flags from Melbourne Park in a show of solidarity to the Ukrainian plight, while both the ATP and WTA have vocalised their support for the nation since last year’s invasion.
TA has since released a statement following the fans behaviour on the grounds of the Australian Open, expressing disappointment and revealing police are now involved.
“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,” the statement said.
“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.”
The mere stupidity of such a public tennis figure even acknowledging the group is quite dumbfounding, let alone seeming to vocalise support behind Putin’s attack.
Former Ukrainian players such as Alexandr Dolgopolov and Sergiy Stakhovsky have enlisted in the military to assist in the plight, and have often posted videos and updates from the front lines about their experiences.
Current players like Marta Kostyuk and Elina Monfils (née Svitolina) have also rallied behind their compatriots and urged the tennis community to donate in any way that they can.
Kostyuk even took to Twitter to express her shock and bewilderment.
For them to see the father of the best player on the planet and favourite for the Australian Open title throw his support to the country invading their own would be soul crushing.
Let’s not forget that a year ago it was Srdjan leading rallies in the streets of Serbia in a plea to have his son released from the hotel in which he was being detained before the famous deportation from Australia.
With a deportation comes a three-year ban from entering the country, one which the Albanese government has now wavered to allow Djokovic to compete in Melbourne.
In fairness, the former World No.1’s exemption to play is only due to his notoriety, plain and simple. He is still unvaccinated and people have certainly been deported for less.
To say that the federal government would see this as a slap in the face is an understatement and the same could be said about the Ukrainian players that constantly live in fear for their relatives and friends back home.
Controversy seems to follow Srdjan around more than his son, which says something. So maybe it’s time he remains home and ceases his travel, because his actions in Melbourne Park are downright disrespectful and disturbing, not to mention that of the Russian sympathisers.