When Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan Djokovic was caught on camera posing with pro-Russian supporters outside the Australian Open at Melbourne Park last week, it was not the first time that the Serbian has courted controversy.
Srdjan Djokovic has been outspoken during his son’s rise through the tennis rankings.
In the latest controversy at the Australian Open, pro-Russian protests had been banned but there were still rallies in support of Vladimir Putin. Srdjan Djokovic was seen touching a Russian flag amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Srdjan Djokovic issued a statement that said: “I am here to support my son only.”
He said that he would watch Novak Djokovic win the tournament from home, so as to not cause any more “disruption.”
Novak Djokovic responded in a press conference, stating: “He [my dad] had no intention to support any kind of war initiative. It’s unfortunate the misinterpretation of what happened escalated.”
Last year, Srdjan Djokovic was a leading figure in defending his son after he was detained and later deported from Australia ahead of the 2022 tournament, over his COVID-19 vaccine status.
In the Serbian capital Belgrade, he led boisterous protests filled with flag-waving demonstrators and held his own heated press conferences where he compared Novak Djokovic’s plight to that of Jesus Christ.
He said at the time: “They try to crucify Novak too, to humiliate him… He will endure.”
Srdjan Djokovic, who was raised in a small mining town in Kosovo, moved to Belgrade when he was a teenager. He was a skiing instructor when he met his wife. Novak Djokovic is the couple’s first child together.
Speaking to the Serbian press when Novak Djokovic was showing promise for tennis as a youngster, Srdjan Djokovic said: “We sat with him on a table when he was 10 years old and asked him—what do you want to be when you grow up? He said he wanted to become the tennis number one, which we completely supported and I dedicated myself to his career.”
This has meant that Novak Djokovic has seemingly been under the strict guidance of his father throughout his time as a tennis pro and earlier.
Srdjan Djokovic told a Serbian media outlet: “Since he was six, we look after every aspect of his career. What he would work on today, tomorrow, a month, or a year from now. What he eats. What he drinks. Every aspect and detail of his life is under control.”
This came at a cost for the family. The father has said he even sold the family’s gold at rock-bottom prices and turned to loan sharks for money to help fund his son as he began playing on the pro tour.
In 2021, he told Prva TV: “The West doesn’t like him. They will have to accept that he is the best, and will be the best in tennis history.”
His parents’ devotion has meant that Novak Djokovic has had all his parents could offer, often at the detriment of his siblings, with Srdjan Djokovic telling Serbian media: “Only Novak mattered. All of us… were irrelevant. Everything was done so he could achieve what he did.”
This has led to Srdjan Djokovic admitting that he overlooked his other children to ensure that Novak continued on the right path.
Srdjan Djokovic previously described his role in Novak Djokovic’s life as “mother, father, coach, physician—everything.”
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