Srdjan Djokovic opted to not attend his son's Australian Open semifinal win on Friday
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has sprung to the defense of his father Srdjan after he was filmed alongside Russian supporters following a match involving his son at the Australian Open this week.
Video footage appeared online shortly after Wednesday's match between Djokovic and Russia's Andrey Rublev. It showed Srdjan Djokovic alongside a man holding the Russian tricolor and wearing a 'Z' symbol on his shirt, which is commonly associated with Russian troops in Ukraine.
Subtitles on the video suggested that Srdjan Djokovic made a pro-Russian statement in the brief clip. A ban on displaying the Russian flag was introduced by Tennis Australia earlier in the tournament.
However, Srdjan Djokovic later issued a statement to say that he had been unwittingly caught up in a pro-Russia demonstration as he celebrated and posed for photographs with his son's supporters in Melbourne. He added that he would stay away from Djokovic's semifinal match with American Tommy Paul, which took place earlier on Friday.
A phrase used by Djokovic Sr in the footage was translated as professing support for Russia's military operation in Ukraine. However, Serbian media later clarified that his words were actually a common way of saying goodbye.
Following his win against Paul, which will see Novak Djokovic appear in the tenth Australian Open final of his career, the Serb admitted that the furore involving his father had affected him during the match.
"It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened has escalated to such a high level. There was a lot of conversations with the tournament director, with media and everyone else," said Djokovic in his post-match press conference.
"It has got to me, of course, as well. I was not aware of it until last night. Then, of course, I was not pleased to see that."
Djokovic roared into an early lead in his match with Paul, only to uncharacteristically appear to lose momentum late in the first set, offering his opponent a route back into the match.
He ultimately rallied, though, and saw the win through in a three-set whitewash.
With the potential semifinal pitfall successfully navigated, Djokovic turned his attention to the Russian supporters who he said had "misused" his father, as well as the media who mistranslated his father's comments.
"The photo that he made, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said, 'Cheers.' Unfortunately, some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way.
"There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That's what he thought. He thought he was making a photo with somebody from Serbia.
"He was misused in this situation by this group of people," he added. "I can't be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans, and that's it.
"After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that's going to reflect on me."
Djokovic also said he was unsure whether his father would attend Sunday's final where he will take on Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in pursuit of a tenth Australian Open title, a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam win and a 28th consecutive victory overall at the Melbourne event.