Novak Djokovic, a notable Serbian tennis player, has maintained his stance on displaying a political statement regarding Kosovo at the French Open.
After winning in the first round on Monday, Djokovic expressed his support for Serbia by writing “Kosovo is at the core of our nation. We must end the violence” on a TV camera lens, in light of recent violent conflicts in Kosovo.
In recent days, tensions have been escalating in Kosovo, a country that declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. On Monday, there were clashes between protesters and the newly-installed ethnically Albanian mayors in a controversial election.
Dozens of NATO peacekeepers were injured on Monday after clashes erupted with Serbian demonstrators trying to block the newly elected mayors from taking office in the northern municipality of Zvecan.
This week, Djokovic expressed his duty to support the people of Kosovo and the entire nation of Serbia, as his father was born there.
The mention of “entirety of Serbia” represents the stance of the Serbian government, which views Kosovo as an inseparable part of its land and has not acknowledged its independence.
Earlier this week, CNN requested clarification from Djokovic’s representatives to determine his stance on Kosovo’s relationship with Serbia. However, no response was received.
“I understand that many may disagree, but this is my stance,” Djokovic stated on Wednesday following his win against Márton Fucsovics from Hungary in the second round. “It is what it is and it’s something I firmly believe in.”
He mentioned that he had not conversed with Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director of the French Open, regarding the incident.
The Kosovan Olympic Committee (KOC) requested the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) to impose disciplinary measures on Djokovic on Tuesday.
The KOC accused the 22-time grand slam champion of promoting Serbian nationalist propaganda and using their platform in the sport to do so. This has resulted in increased tension and violence between Kosovo and Serbia.
According to the ITF, the behavior of players during a grand slam tournament is regulated by the organizer’s rulebook. This rulebook does not contain any restrictions against making political statements.
During the Olympic Games, the IOC has jurisdiction over athletes.
Djokovic is no stranger to controversy at grand slam tournaments. At the Australian Open in January, he said that his father, Srdjan, didn’t intend to support “any kind of war initiatives,” having been filmed with a group of Russian supporters at the Australian Open.
In 2022, the 36-year-old was expelled from Australia during the Australian Open for failing to have a Covid-19 vaccine upon arrival in Melbourne.
“I doubt I’ll ever have a drama-free grand slam,” he stated on Wednesday. “But I think that also motivates me.”
On Friday, Djokovic will compete against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain in the third round of the French Open. He is striving to secure his 23rd grand slam title, surpassing Rafael Nadal and claiming the top spot on the men’s all-time list.
Reporting was contributed by Sammy Mncwabe, Ben Church, Matt Foster, Jill Martin, Jessie Gretener, Sugam Pokharel, Tara John, and Sharon Braithwaite from CNN.