Novak Djokovic, a tennis player from Serbia, has reaffirmed his choice to convey a political statement regarding Kosovo during the French Open.
Following his win in the first round on Monday, Djokovic expressed his support for Serbia by writing “Kosovo is the [heart symbol] of Serbia. Stop the violence” on a TV camera lens, referencing recent violent conflicts in Kosovo.
In the recent week, there has been an increase in tensions in Kosovo, a country that gained independence from Serbia in 2008. On Monday, there were confrontations between demonstrators regarding the appointment of Albanian mayors, which was a point of contention in a controversial election.
Numerous NATO peacekeepers were harmed on Monday during confrontations with Serbian protestors attempting to prevent newly elected mayors from assuming their roles in the northern town of Zvecan.
This week, Djokovic expressed his duty to support both his people and all of Serbia, as his father was born in Kosovo.
The mention of the “whole of Serbia” shows the stance of the Serbian government, which maintains that Kosovo is a fundamental part of its land and has not acknowledged its independence.
Earlier this week, CNN reached out to Djokovic’s team for clarification on whether he supports Kosovo being part of Serbia. However, they did not receive a response.
Djokovic stated on Wednesday, following his win against Márton Fucsovics, that although he knows many would disagree, he stands firm in his beliefs.
He stated that he hadn’t communicated with Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director of the French Open, regarding the incident.
The KOC asked the IOC and ITF to penalize Djokovic for his actions on Tuesday.
The KOC accused the 22-time grand slam champion of once again promoting Serbian nationalist propaganda and using the sport platform to do so. This action has increased tension and violence between the two countries, Kosovo and Serbia.
The International Tennis Federation stated that the behavior of players at a major tournament is regulated by the rulebook of the appropriate organizer, and that there is no rule that forbids political statements.
The International Olympic Committee stated that athletes are only under its jurisdiction during the Olympic Games.
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 when they entered Melbourne without being vaccinated against Covid-19.
“I don’t think I can achieve a drama-free grand slam,” he stated on Wednesday. “I suppose that also serves as motivation for me.”
On Friday, Djokovic will compete against Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round of the French Open. This match is part of his quest to secure his 23rd grand slam title, surpassing Rafael Nadal’s record and becoming the top male player in history.
Reporting for this story was contributed by Sammy Mncwabe, Ben Church, Matt Foster, Jill Martin, Jessie Gretener, Sugam Pokharel, Tara John, and Sharon Braithwaite from CNN.