French Open: Novak Djokovic doubles down on Kosovo Statement

Novak Djokovic caused controversy at the French Open after writing "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" on a courtside TV camera

Novak Djokovic (Photo: DW)
Novak Djokovic (Photo: DW)


Tennis star Novak Djokovic doubled down on his controversial statement following his first-round win over Aleksandar Kovacevic at the French Open.

The Serbian player scribbled "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence " on a courtside TV camera following his victory in Paris.

And, in comments to Serbian media the following day, Djokovic added: "Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, center of the most important things for our country."

"As a public figure but also a son of a man who was born in Kosovo I feel additional responsibility to express my support to our people and Serbia as a whole."

"I hear that there were many complaints on social media and from international journalists, saying someone would punish me but I have no remorse and would do it again as my stance is clear."

"But I am against war, violence and conflict of any kind and I have always publicly shown that."

Kosovo Olympic Committee calls for action

Kosovan Olympic authorities responded by asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Djokovic.

That came after Kosovo's Tennis Federation sent a letter to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) but had their own request to open disciplinary proceedings rejected.

"Novak Djokovic has yet again promoted the Serbian nationalists' propaganda and used the sport platform to do so," Ismet Krasniqi, president of Kosovo's Olympic Committee (KOK), said in a statement.

"The further postmatch statements made by such a public figure without any feeling of remorse, directly result in raising the level of tension and violence between the two countries."

The IOC did not respond to a request for comment.

Tempers flare after mayoral elections

Djokovic's comments came after NATO-led peacekeepers pushed back Serbian protesters who clashed with police in northern Kosovo to demand the removal of recently elected ethnically Albanian mayors.

Up to 30 NATO peacekeeping soldiers defending three town halls in Zvecan, where Djokovic's father grew up, were injured in clashes. The tense situation developed after the mayors took office in northern Kosovo's Serb-majority area after elections the Serbs boycotted.

Kosovo claimed independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbian people in Kosovo remain largely loyal to Belgrade, particularly in the north of the country where they make up a majority.

French tennis authorities unlikely to punish Djokovic

The French tennis federation (FFT), which organizes the event, told news agency Reuters that there were "no official Grand Slam rules on what players can or cannot say. The FFT will not be making any statement or taking any stance on this matter."

Djokovic already courted controversy at this year's first Grand Slam, after he had to defend his father at the Australian Open in January, when a video emerged showing him posing with some fans holding Russian flags amid the war in Ukraine.

Serbia and its traditional ally Russia do not recognise Kosovo's independence, and Moscow has blocked the country's bid to become a member of the United Nations.

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