Novak Djokovic admits father scrutiny overshadowed semi-final victory
Novak Djokovic has admitted that the scrutiny around his father, Srdjan Djokovic, at the Australian Open affected him in the build up to his semi-final victory over Tommy Paul.
Srdjan Djokovic had been filmed after Djokovic’s quarter-final taking a photograph with a spectator who wore a “Z” symbol T-shirt and held a Russian flag containing a photo of Vladimir Putin’s face. “It has got to me, of course,” said Djokovic. “I was not aware of it till last night. Then, of course, I was not pleased to see that.
“My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during [the] ‘90s. As my father put in a statement, we are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war.”
Djokovic comfortably defeated Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 to reach his 10th Australian Open final. Djokovic also said his father’s comments had been misinterpreted, and that he thought he was taking a photo with somebody holding a Serbian flag.
“The photo that he made, he was passing through,” said Djokovic. “I heard what he said in the video. He said, ‘Cheers’. Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way.
“I’m sorry that that has escalated so much. But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that.”
Djokovic said that his father was “misused” by the pro-Putin supporters. Djokovic Sr did not attend his son’s match against Paul, but Djokovic said he would like his father to be present for the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday. “He was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people. That’s what happened,” said Djokovic.
Djokovic faces Tsitsipas after the Greek world No 4 and the third seed held off a late surge from Karen Khachanov earlier on Friday, recovering to reach his first final in Australia and second grand-slam final overall with a 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 win.
Every win for Djokovic unlocks more astounding achievements. He has now reached 33 grand-slam finals, extending his open era record. At 35, the Serbian is also the fourth oldest man in the open era to reach the Australian Open final. With 27 consecutive wins in Melbourne dating back to 2019, he now boasts the biggest winning streak in the history of the tournament.
Despite Djokovic’s difficult first set, Paul was understandably even more nervous in his first grand slam semi-final and a first meeting with Djokovic. He struck four unforced errors in his opening service game and quickly fell down two breaks. But at 5-1 deuce, Djokovic argued with the umpire, Damien Dumusois, over the 25-second shot clock and seemed to lose concentration, conceding four successive games.
At the most critical moment, Djokovic shored up his game and broke serve for the set with some spectacular defence. With the first set secured, Djokovic relaxed and gradually returned to the stratospheric level he has exhibited during the second week. There were some tight games, and Paul showed off his great athleticism by winning a number of high octane extended rallies, but in the end he had only three games to show for his efforts in the final two sets.
“Very satisfied and pleased to be in another grand slam final,” said Djokovic. “This is exactly what I’ve imagined and hoped that will happen when I came to Australia, with intention to be in a position to fight for another Australian Open trophy.”
On Sunday, Djokovic will face by far his toughest opponent in Melbourne as he stares down a resurgent Tsitsipas, a rematch of the 2021 French Open final won by Djokovic. Neither player has lost a match so far in 2023.
“I’m playing great tennis,” said Tsitsipas. “I’m enjoying myself. I just see no downside or negativity in what I’m trying to do out there. Even if it doesn’t work, I’m very optimistic and positive about any outcome, any opponent that I have to face.”