Following his match at the French Open, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic called for peace amid ongoing conflict in Kosovo.
After his first round victory over American Aleksandar Kovacevic, Djokovic signed the camera lens for a Serbian television network, writing, “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence,” in Serbian. The anti-violence message was also displayed on the video board at Court Philippe Chatrier.
Djokovic wrote “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia! Stop violence” on the camera after his win today at #RG23 as tensions flare up anew in the region.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 29, 2023
Djokovic’s message comes as there is unrest in Kosovo amid protests after recent elections. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia and Russia do not recognize the country as a sovereign state. After writing his message, Djokovic defended his political statement while speaking to reporters.
‘It’s the least I could have done’ – Novak Djokovic has defended his controversial message, written on a camera lens at the French Open, which claimed ‘Kosovo is the heart of Serbia’. pic.twitter.com/gfKuvQsPsV
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) May 30, 2023
“I am not a politician and I don’t intend to engage in political debates,” Djokovic said during his post-match press conference. “It is a very sensitive topic and naturally very painful for me as a Serb to see what is happening in Kosovo and the way our people are practically driven out from the municipalities.”
“My stance is clear,” Djokovic continued. “I am against wars, violence and any kind of conflict, as I’ve always stated publicly. I empathize with all people, but the situation with Kosovo is a precedent in international law.”
According to Reuters, Djokovic did not hear from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) about his message at the French Open, with tournament organizers stating there are “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.”
Djokovic is attempting to win his 23rd Grand Slam at the French Open, which would break a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most singles titles in men’s tennis history.