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No sanctions against Djokovic after Kosovo statements

No sanctions against Djokovic after Kosovo statements
Tennis ace Novak Djokovic
Image: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

The International Tennis Federation (ITF), which has sovereignty over the Grand Slam tournaments, emphasized on Wednesday that “political statements” by players are not prohibited. After his three-set win against Aleksandar Kovacevic on Monday, Djokovic wrote on a TV camera: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence!”

ITF President David Haggerty said on Wednesday that a letter from Kosovo had been received, answered and forwarded to the French host of the Grand Slam tournament and the ATP. “You make the rules for this event.” The ITF had previously said in a statement: “There is no passage in the rules of conduct for the Grand Slams that prohibits political statements.” In a statement, the IOC referred to the responsibility of the Grand Slam organizers. Only during the Olympic Games would the players be under the supervision of the IOC, it said.

“I’m not a politician and I don’t want to start a debate”

As the son of a father who was born and raised in Kosovo, he simply wanted to express his support for the Serbs in Kosovo, Djokovic defended himself. Several people have been injured in unrest there in recent days. “I’m not a politician and I don’t want to trigger a debate,” said the Serb, who could become the sole record holder in Paris with a 23rd Grand Slam title. On Wednesday evening he eliminated the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in three sets in the second round.

In France there was still criticism of Djokovic. French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra described his action as “inappropriate”. “When it comes to defending human rights and bringing people together around universal values, every athlete can do it,” she said on French television. However, Djokovic’s message was “militant, very political” and should not be repeated.

Djokovic, on the other hand, received support from the Ukrainian Elina Switolina. The 28-year-old, who had called for a ban on all Russian and Belarusian tennis players from international competitions because of Moscow’s invasion of her country in 2022, said the 22-time Grand Slam winner was free to express his opinions. “I think if you stand for something, then you should say so. I mean, if you sit down with a friend and have a conversation, you will speak your mind and he will speak his mind too. So why not?”

The background to Djokovic’s action is the recent unrest in the Serbian-dominated north of Kosovo after local elections on April 23. The Serbs, who make up the majority of the population in the northern part of the country, boycotted the elections. As a result, Albanian mayoral candidates also won in Serb-majority communities. Ethnic Serbs gathered for demonstrations when they took office on Monday. Around 30 UN peacekeepers and, according to Serbian hospital sources, 53 Serbs were injured in riots in the predominantly Serbian village of Zvecan. Djokovic’s father also comes from Zvecan.

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