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Novak Djokovic's Father Poses For Photos With Pro-Putin Fans In Melbourne

Novak Djokovic's Father Poses For Photos With Pro-Putin Fans In Melbourne
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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Novak Djokovic continues his charge towards a 22nd Grand Slam title at the Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday, with Australian Open quarter-final victory over Russian player Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic took a straight sets victory in Wednesday's quarter-final, and will now face American Tommy Paul in Friday's semi-final.

With Stefanos Tsitsipas the only other top-ten seed left in the tournament, Djokovic will be liking his chances of taking a 10th men's singles title in Melbourne.

His quarter-final victory, however, was marred by controversy in the crowd - and Djokovic's father was pictured with those at the centre of it all.

Novak Djokovic: Serb's father caught in Aus Open controversy

Andrey Rublev's presence in Wednesday's match brought a significant cohort of Russian fans to the Rod Laver Arena. The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a blanket ban on Russian participation at sporting events, though tennis is one of the sports to allow individual athletes to continue to compete under a neutral flag.

Rublev was competing as a neutral on Wednesday, but the Russian fans in the crowd made their feelings clear - and breached tournament regulations.

An incident in the match between Katertna Baindl (Ukraine) and Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia in the first round of the women's singles saw Baindl intimidated by fans with pro-Russian and pro-Vladimir Putin flags, and so tournament organisers chose to ban Russian and Belarusian flags from the stands in Melbourne.


Some fans managed to get Russian flags into the arena on Wednesday, however, with many of the flags also depicting the face of their president Vladimir Putin, whose decision it was to invade Ukraine.


As those fans clashed with security outside the arena, Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan was spotted posing for photographs with them. He was videoed taking a photo with a group holding a flag adorned with Putin's face, before a voice could reportedly be heard saying "long live Russians" in Serbian.

The fan standing beside Djokovic Sr in the video is also wearing a t-shirt with a "Z" symbol on it - a symbol used to identify vehicles used by the Russian forces during their Ukrainian invasion.


Tennis Australia responded to the presence of flags in the arena with a statement which read:

Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards.

Victoria Police intervened and are continuing to question them.

The i journalist James Gray posted a thread breaking down the incident in Melbourne, saying that the footage came from a pro-Putin YouTube channel run by Simeon Boikov. Gray also shared a threatening message from Boikov: "The Russian empire has had its flag banned. Well guess what Tennis Australia? Good luck when the empire strikes back."

The association with the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a disappointing turn of events for Novak Djokovic, though the tennis player himself was not pictured with the group of fans. Djokovic has, to his credit, been seen to support Ukrainian opponents over the past year, as the bloodshed in their homeland continues.

James Gray shared one example of this later in his thread, when Djokovic reached out to Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky and offered "financial help, any other help as well".



The controversy at the Australian Open comes a year after Djokovic was deported ahead of the tournament getting underway, due to his lack of COVID-19 vaccination.

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