‘Would do it again’: Djokovic infuriates with post-win message

Novak Djokovic has risked stirring up a political controversy at the French Open after with a message about Kosovo following his first-round victory.

Novak Djokovic has risked stirring up a political controversy at the French Open after with a message about Kosovo following his first-round victory. Photos: AAP/Twitter

Novak Djokovic has eased into the second round of the French Open but risked inflaming political tensions in his home region with a message about Kosovo.

“Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop violence,” Djokovic wrote on the lens of a camera as he left court after his 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-1) victory over American Aleksandar Kovacevic, who is of Serbian heritage.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia has never recognised that. Violence broke out in the north of the country at the weekend after ethnic Albanian mayors were installed in Serbian-dominated areas, with NATO peacekeepers among those injured.

Serbia has troops stationed near the border and there are fears of a return to the violent conflict of 1998-99.

Speaking to Serbian journalists in comments reported by the country’s media, Djokovic, whose father was born in Kosovo, said: “I am not a politician, nor do I intend to enter into debates.

“As a Serb, it hurts me what is happening in Kosovo. Our people have been expelled from the municipalities. This is the least I could do. As a public figure, I feel an obligation to show support for our people and all of Serbia.

“I hear there was a lot of criticism on social media. I don’t know if someone will punish me or something like that, but I would do it again. I am against wars and conflicts of any kind.

“Kosovo is our heart, stronghold, the centre of the most important events, the biggest battle took place there, the most monasteries. There are many reasons why I wrote this.”

Djokovic, who is not expected to face any sanctions, is no stranger to controversy. He was dragged into a row at the Australian Open in January after his father Srdjan was pictured with pro-Russia demonstrators, which he later insisted was unwitting.

The French Tennis Federation, which runs the Paris event, told Reuters that there were “no official grand slam rules on what players can or cannot say”.

“The FFT will not be making any statement or taking any stance on this matter,” it said.

On the court, there were no real alarms for the third seed, who has struggled on clay so far this season but maintained his record of not dropping a set in the opening round in Paris since 2010.

The 22-grand slam winner was broken serving for the match but responded with a strong tiebreak

“I think I played really well and held things under control for two-and-a-half sets and then lost my serve and things got a little bit on a wrong side for me,” Djokovic said.

“But I managed to hold my nerves and played pretty much a perfect tiebreak. So overall I’m pleased and content with my level.”

He denied it was an easy win against Kovacevic.

“[He] made me work for my victory,” Djokovic said.

-with AAP

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