“Maybe I’ll be punished, but I felt responsibility to give support” : Djokovic on his political TV signature

Novak Djokovic said that he felt the need to give support to Serbian people amid breaking violence in the northern part of Kosovo

Novak Djokovic, political message on Kosovo, Roland-Garros 2023 Novak Djokovic, political message on Kosovo, Roland-Garros 2023 | © Panoramic / Tennis Majors

Following his first round win at Roland Garros over Aleksandar Kovacevic (6-3, 6-2, 7-6), Novak Djokovic wrote on camera: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia – stop the violence” in an unusual political stance made by the 22-Grand Slam winner.

Djokovic wrote the message in reference to local political issues in Serbia. Police used tear gas to disperse Serbs who gathered in front of municipal buildings in the Kosovan town of Zvecan (one of four Serbian municipalities at the north of Kosovo), trying to prevent a newly-elected ethnic Albanian mayor from entering his office. More than 50 people were hurt in clashes between KFOR (NATO mission in Kosovo) and Serbian protesters.

“I am not a politician and I don’t have the intention to get into political debate,” Djokovic said, as he spoke slowly but emotionally to Serbian media. “That topic is very sensitive… As a Serb, everything that’s happening in Kosovo hurts me a lot.

“This is the least I could have done. I feel the responsibility as a public figure – doesn’t matter in which field – to give support… Especially as a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to them and to Serbia. I don’t know what the future brings for Serbian people and for Kosovo, but it’s necessary to show support and demonstrate unity in these kinds of situations.”

Djokovic : “I am not holding back, I would do it again”

Asked in Serbian whether organisers approached him over his words on camera, Djokovic said that “so far that hasn’t been the case” and that he hopes “it stays that way”.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen – I heard that there have been many objections on social media – whether I will be punished… I am not holding back, I would do it again.

“My stance is clear: I am against wars, violence and any kind of conflict, as I’ve always stated publicly. I empathise with all people, but the situation with Kosovo is a precedent in international law… I am very sorry for the situation that we are in – Kosovo is our hearthstone, our stronghold, our most important monasteries are there…”

The Serbian army is in a state of “maximal alert” close to the Kosovo border since Friday, after clashes between police and Serbs living in the North of Kosovo. Kosovo claimed its independence in 2008 but the Serbian government consider this territory to be an autonomous region of Serbia. The territory has been a source of political tension for decades.

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