The Kosovo Tennis Federation is preparing an official complaint about Novak Djokovic’s on-camera message and will call for the 22-time grand slam champion to be fined.
After his first-round victory at the French Open on Monday, Djokovic wrote on the camera lens: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence.”
Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia has never recognised that and violence broke out in the north of the country over the weekend after ethnic Albanian mayors were installed in Serbian-dominated areas, with NATO peacekeepers among those injured.
Djokovic’s message immediately drew attention on social media, with the Serbian telling journalists from his country: “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.”
The French Tennis Federation said on Monday it would not be taking any stance on the matter because grand slam rules do not forbid political statements from players, but the Kosovo federation believes Djokovic should face punishment.
Jeton Hadergjonaj told the PA news agency: “It’s not the first time that Djokovic is doing this. He’s continually provoking Kosovo.
“He suggested he has roots from Kosovo because his father was born in Kosovo. He lived in the north part and probably you heard now in that part there is some troubles and some of the peacekeepers, international soldiers, were injured because the Serbian people attack them.
“OK, Djokovic has some connections, he still has some family there I think and he visited that part. It’s understandable, he’s connected with that part.
“But Kosovo is an independent country recognised by the ITF (International Tennis Federation), Tennis Europe and the international community.
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“But he continuously attacks us every time he can do it. In a basketball match in Belgrade one month ago, all the people in the stadium were chanting ‘Kosovo is Serbia’. He was not shouting but he was doing the signs with his hand supporting that.
“That one was not very public, I reacted as well, but this one was a big one. According to the Olympics charter, the fundamental principle is that sporting organisations within the Olympic movement should apply political neutrality.
“The ITF is recognised by the International Olympic Committee. We have to react. Tomorrow we will send an official request for Djokovic to be charged, to have a fine. We will request from the ITF, the ATP and the French Tennis Federation.”
Serbia has troops stationed near the border and there are fears the situation could escalate 15 years after the Kosovo war left more than 10,000 people dead.
Asked if Djokovic’s involvement could increase tensions, Hadergjonaj said: “Potentially it will inflame it. For such a public figure, in this occasion, in this big event and (amid) this Ukraine-Russia war, to give this kind of message is really not helpful.
“The Kosovo-Serbia talks are ongoing and are near to be solved, the problem of Kosovo for a lifetime. To do this kind of declaration from Djokovic, I think is not clever.”
Djokovic faces Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in the second round in Paris on Wednesday.