Connect with us


Djokovic’s father won’t attend semi-final after Russia flag controversy



Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan and brother Djordje attend a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic.

Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan said on Friday he would not attend his son’s Australian Open semi-final and would instead “watch from home”, after a video emerged showing him posing at Melbourne Park with fans holding Russian flags.

The video caused controversy in Australia, leading to the country’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday reiterating Australian support for Ukraine and criticising supporters of Russia’s invasion.

“I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption,” Srdjan Djokovic said in an emailed statement.

“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home.”

Novak Djokovic declined to comment.

“I will make this point, that Australia stands with the people of Ukraine,” Albanese told a news conference after a reporter asked if Srdjan Djokovic should be deported after he was seen posing for pictures with fans holding Russian flags.


That is Australia’s position and Australia is unequivocal in our support for the rule of international law.

“We do not want to see any support given to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that is having a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine.”

Albanese did not respond directly to the question about whether Srdjan Djokovic should be deported.

Police questioned four fans seen with “inappropriate flags and symbols” after a quarter-final match on Wednesday between Russia’s Andrey Rublev and favourite Djokovic, organisers Tennis Australia said.

The Serbian player, who was at the centre of a storm of controversy over his COVID-19 vaccination status at last year’s Australian Open, has not commented on the incident and his spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


A video emerged on social media showed a fan on the steps of Rod Laver Arena holding up a Russian flag with the image of President Vladimir Putin on it.

Photos also showed one fan with a large “Z” on his shirt. Russian forces have used the letter as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following their invasion. Some supporters of the invasion have also used the sign.

Srdjan Djokovic was seen in some posts posing with the Russian supporters.

Australian Open organisers on Thursday issued a reminder to players and their entourages about their policy on flags after the video of Djokovic’s father emerged.

On Friday, Tennis Australia said they “continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia”.


Russian and Belarusian athletes are able to compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at the Australian Open, though their flags are banned from the tournament grounds after a complaint by Ukraine’s ambassador last week.

Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament last year for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and received a three-year Australian travel ban.

That ban was rescinded in November, allowing him to compete this year.

Djokovic will continue his bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and 22nd Grand Slam crown to match Rafa Nadal when he takes on unseeded American Tommy Paul in their semi-final later on Friday.



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Continue Reading


Factbox: List of Australian Open women’s singles champions



List of Australian Open women’s singles champions since the event began in 1922 (Australian unless stated):

2023 Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) bt Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan) 4-6 6-3 6-4

2022 Ash Barty bt Danielle Collins (U.S.) 6-3 7-6(2)

2021 Naomi Osaka (Japan) bt Jennifer Brady (U.S.) 6-4 6-3


2020 Sofia Kenin (U.S.) bt Garbine Muguruza (Spain) 4-6 6-2 6-2

2019 Osaka bt Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4

2018 Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) bt Simona Halep (Romania) 7-6(2) 3-6 6-4

2017 Serena Williams (U.S.) bt Venus Williams (U.S.) 6-4 6-4

2016 Angelique Kerber (Germany) bt S. Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4


2015 S. Williams bt Maria Sharapova (Russia) 6-3 7-6(5)

2014 Li Na (China) bt Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) 7-6(3) 6-0

2013 Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) bt Li 4-6 6-4 6-3

2012 Azarenka bt Sharapova 6-3 6-0

2011 Kim Clijsters (Belgium) bt Li 3-6 6-3 6-3


2010 S. Williams bt Justine Henin (Belgium) 6-4 3-6 6-2

2009 S. Williams bt Dinara Safina (Russia) 6-0 6-3

2008 Sharapova bt Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) 7-5 6-3

2007 S. Williams bt Sharapova 6-1 6-2

2006 Amelie Mauresmo (France) bt Henin 6-1 2-0 (retired)


2005 S. Williams bt Lindsay Davenport (U.S.) 2-6 6-3 6-0

2004 Henin bt Clijsters 6-3 4-6 6-3

2003 S. Williams bt V. Williams 7-6(4) 3-6 6-4

2002 Jennifer Capriati (U.S.) bt Martina Hingis (Switzerland) 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2

2001 Capriati bt Hingis 6-4 6-3


2000 Davenport bt Hingis 6-1 7-5

1999 Hingis bt Mauresmo 6-2 6-3

1998 Hingis bt Conchita Martinez (Spain) 6-3 6-3

1997 Hingis bt Mary Pierce (France) 6-2 6-2

1996 Monica Seles (U.S.) bt Anke Huber (Germany) 6-4 6-1


1995 Pierce bt Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (Spain) 6-3 6-2

1994 Steffi Graf (Germany) bt Sanchez Vicario 6-0 6-2

1993 Seles (Yugoslavia) bt Graf 4-6 6-3 6-2

1992 Seles bt Mary Joe Fernandez (U.S.) 6-3 6-4

1991 Seles bt Jana Novotna (Czechoslovakia) 5-7 6-3 6-1


1990 Graf bt Fernandez 6-3 6-4

1989 Graf bt Helena Sukova (Czechoslovakia) 6-4 6-4

1988 Graf bt Chris Evert (U.S.) 6-4 6-4

1987 Hana Mandlikova (Czechoslovakia) bt Martina Navratilova (U.S.) 7-5 7-6(1)

1986 no competition


1985 Navratilova bt Evert 6-2 4-6 6-2

1984 Evert bt Sukova 6-7(4) 6-1 6-3

1983 Navratilova bt Kathy Jordan (U.S.) 6-2 7-6(5)

1982 Evert bt Navratilova 6-3 2-6 6-3

1981 Navratilova bt Evert 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5


1980 Mandlikova bt Wendy Turnbull 6-0 7-5

1979 Barbara Jordan (U.S.) bt Sharon Walsh (U.S.) 6-3 6-3

1978 Chris O’Neil bt Betsy Nagelsen 6-3 7-6(3)

1977 (Dec) Evonne Goolagong Cawley bt Helen Gourlay Cawley 6-3 6-0

1977 (Jan) Kerry Melville Reid bt Dianne Fromholtz Balestrat 7-5 6-2


1976 Goolagong Cawley bt Renata Tomanova (Czechoslovakia) 6-2 6-2

1975 Goolagong Cawley bt Navratilova (Czechoslovakia) 6-3 6-2

1974 Goolagong Cawley bt Evert 7-6(5) 4-6 6-0

1973 Margaret Court bt Goolagong Cawley 6-4 7-5

1972 Virginia Wade (Britain) bt Goolagong Cawley 6-4 6-4


1971 Court bt Goolagong Cawley 2-6 7-6(0) 7-5

1970 Court bt Melville Reid 6-1 6-3

1969 Court bt Billie Jean King (U.S.) 6-4 6-1

1968 King bt Court 6-1 6-2

1967 Nancy Richey (U.S.) bt Lesley Turner Bowrey 6-1 6-4


1966 Court bt Richey (walkover)

1965 Court bt Maria Bueno (Brazil) 5-7 6-4 5-2 (retired)

1964 Court bt Turner Bowrey 6-3 6-2

1963 Court bt Jan Lehane O’Neill 6-2 6-2

1962 Court bt Lehane O’Neill 6-0 6-2


1961 Court bt Lehane O’Neill 6-1 6-4

1960 Court bt Lehane O’Neill 7-5 6-2

1959 Mary Carter Reitano bt Renee Schuurman Haygarth (South

Africa) 6-2 6-3

1958 Angela Mortimer Barrett (Britain) bt Lorraine Coghlan


Robinson 6-2 6-4

1957 Shirley Fry Irvin (U.S.) bt Althea Gibson (U.S.) 6-3 6-4

1956 Carter Reitano bt Thelma Coyne Long (U.S.) 3-6 6-2 9-7

1955 Beryl Penrose Collier bt Coyne Long 6-4 6-3

1954 Coyne Long bt Jenny Staley 6-3 6-4


1953 Maureen Connolly Brinker (U.S.) bt Julia Sampson Hayward (U.S.) 6-3 6-2

1952 Coyne Long bt Helen Angwin 6-2 6-3

1951 Nancye Wynne Bolton bt Coyne Long 6-1 7-5

1950 Louise Brough (U.S.) bt Doris Hart (U.S.) 6-4 3-6 6-4

1949 Hart bt Wynne Bolton 6-4 6-4


1948 Wynne Bolton bt Marie Toomey 6-2 6-1

1947 Wynne Bolton bt Nell Hall Hopman 6-3 6-2

1946 Wynne Bolton bt Joyce Fitch 6-4 6-4

1941-45 No competition

1940 Wynne Bolton bt Coyne Long 5-7 6-4 6-0


1939 Emily Hood Westacott bt Hall Hopman 6-1 6-2

1938 Dorothy Cheney (U.S.) bt Dorothy Stevenson 6-3 6-2

1937 Wynne Bolton by Hood Westacott 6-3 5-7 6-4

1936 Joan Hartigan bt Wynne Bolton 6-4 6-4

1935 Dorothy Round Little (Britain) Nancy Lyle Glover 1-6 6-1 6-3


1934 Hartigan bt Margaret Molesworth 6-1 6-4

1933 Hartigan bt Coral Buttsworth 6-4 6-3

1932 Buttsworth bt Kathleen Le Messurier 9-7 6-4

1931 Buttsworth bt Marjorie Cox Crawford 1-6 6-3 6-4

1930 Daphne Akhurst Cozens bt Sylvia Lance Harper 10-8 2-6 7-5


1929 Akhurst Cozens bt Louise Bickerton 6-1 5-7 6-2

1928 Akhurst Cozens bt Esna Boyd Robertson 7-5 6-2

1927 Boyd Robertson bt Lance Harper 5-7 6-1 6-2

1926 Akhurst Cozens bt Boyd Robertson 6-1 6-3

1925 Akhurst Cozens bt Boyd Robertson 1-6 8-6 6-4


1924 Lance Harper bt Boyd Robertson 6-3 3-6 8-6

1923 Margaret Molesworth bt Boyd Robertson 6-1 7-5

1922 Molesworth bt Boyd Robertson 6-3 10-8

Continue Reading


Djokovic battles Tsitsipas in high stakes Australian Open final



Novak Djokovic will look to rise above the drama that has engulfed him at Melbourne Park and claim a record-extending 10th Australian Open title on Sunday in a generational clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

A year after being deported from Australia on the eve of the Grand Slam for lacking COVID-19 vaccination, Djokovic has battled a hamstring strain, heckling spectators and a media storm over his father mixing with fans toting banned Russian flags at the tennis.

In handling everything within his control, though, Djokovic has been supreme.

The Serb’s dominant semi-final victory over American Tommy Paul on Friday stretched his winning streak at the event to a record 27 in the professional era, eclipsing Andre Agassi’s 26-match run between 2000 to 2004.

Never beaten at Melbourne Park after reaching the semis, fourth seed Djokovic is rated an unbackable favourite to triumph again under the floodlights at Rod Laver Arena.


Despite that, the decider presents possibly the best matchup fans could have hoped for following the early exit of injured champion Rafa Nadal.

It offers a rematch of the dramatic 2021 French Open final, in which Djokovic came back from two sets down to snatch the title and leave Greek Tsitsipas heartbroken.

Not that the match was fresh in Djokovic’s memory.

“I think he (Tsitsipas) has never played a (Grand Slam) finals, am I wrong?” Djokovic asked incredulous reporters this week.

The stakes are sky-high for both players.


At 35, Djokovic needs one major title to draw level with 36-year-old Nadal’s 22 in the all-time Grand Slam race. Meanwhile third seed Tsitsipas is desperate to become the first Greek to win a Grand Slam crown, having put the nation on the tennis map.

Whoever wins will take the world number one ranking from Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who missed the tournament through injury.

At 24, Tsitsipas may feel his time has come. He buried his semi-final hoodoo at Melbourne Park against Russian bruiser Karen Khachanov in four sets on Friday after falling three times previously at the hurdle.

“These are the moments I’ve been working hard for,” said Tsitsipas.

“To be able to play in finals that have a bigger meaning than just the final.”


The atmosphere promises to be electric, and possibly volatile as tension builds.

Melbourne’s strong Greek community, the most populous outside Greece itself, will be in full voice at Rod Laver Arena.

They will rival the army of Serbian supporters who have gorged on Djokovic’s success since his first title at Melbourne Park as a 20-year-old in 2008.

Neutral fans, meanwhile, could well rally behind Tsitsipas in the hope of seeing a genuine contest.

With a huge serve, thumping groundstrokes and comfort on all areas of the court, Tsitsipas has the weapons to trouble anyone on tour. Whether he has the endurance and mental fortitude to dislodge iron man Djokovic remains to be seen.


For all the huff and puff of the younger generation, only Daniil Medvedev has managed to beat the Serb in a completed match at a hardcourt Grand Slam since a shock fourth round loss to Chung Hyeon in the 2018 Australian Open.

Not even Nadal or retired great Roger Federer have ever bested Djokovic in a final at Melbourne Park, and the Serb is hell-bent on extending that incredible record.

“Of course, I have professional goals and ambitions. Those are Grand Slams and being number one in the world,” said Djokovic.

“So I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt.”

Continue Reading


Sabalenka beats Rybakina to win Australian Open



Aryna Sabalenka bludgeoned her way to a maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Kazakh 22nd seed Elena Rybakina on Saturday in a thrilling final between two of the most exciting power-hitters in the women’s game.

Sabalenka’s 11th straight win of the year will propel the Belarusian back to her career-high ranking of number two behind Iga Swiatek as she reaps the rewards of her improved mental stability.

With Russian and Belarusian players only allowed to compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at Melbourne Park due Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, fifth seed Sabalenka also becomes the first neutral athlete to win a major.

Success has followed a period of introspection and change for Sabalenka, who had often appeared to let her emotions halt her progress on the big stage, as she dropped her sports psychologist in pre-season.

Sabalenka also worked with a biomechanics trainer to improve her cannonball serve, which tended to fail her in big moments in the past, and the results were evident before the year’s first Grand Slam as she won the Adelaide International 1 title.


After finally securing her first Grand Slam on Saturday, she dropped to the floor in delight and then walked up to Rybakina’s side of the court to hug her before embracing her emotional entourage in the players’ box.

Her coach Anton Dubrov was seen crying with joy at one point.

“Thanks so much for an amazing atmosphere,” said Sabalenka, who received the trophy from former world number one Billie Jean King. “And of course my team, the craziest team on tour. We’ve been through a lot of downs last year, we worked so hard.

“I hope next year I come back and I show you even better tennis, and you guys support me even more.”

Rybakina, who triumphed at Wimbledon last year, came into the final high on confidence as the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to beat three Grand Slam winners along the way after toppling Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka.


The Russian-born Kazakh went up 3-1 with a comfortable hold after Sabalenka dropped her serve with a double fault and sent a forehand long, but then she came under pressure and allowed her opponent to level the opening set at 4-4.

Rybakina hit back immediately in gusty conditions at Rod Laver Arena to grab another break as Sabalenka double-faulted for a fifth time, before going on to seal the set with a big serve the Belarusian returned into the net.

It was the first time that Sabalenka had dropped a set in 11 matches in 2023 year and the nerves began to show a bit, before the 24-year-old composed herself and saved two breakpoints in the opening game of the next set.

Sabalenka then found a bit of consistency to break but had to overcome a wobble to grab a 4-1 lead after which she let out a huge roar and levelled the match with her 11th and 12th aces to take the contest to a third set.

Sabalenka served with venom and hammered deep returns in the decider to punch holes through Rybakina’s defence to take a 5-3 lead. She then double-faulted on one matchpoint and squandered two more to draw gasps from the crowd.


“I kept telling myself that nobody said it was going to be easy. She was going to fight for it… I told myself, ‘Work for it, take deep breaths, just work’,” Sabalenka told host broadcaster Channel Nine.

She took a few deep breaths and tried again, finally closing out the contest to claim the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

“It was a really tough year and I had tough moments last year. We worked so hard. Right now, I’m just super proud of myself,” Sabalenka added.

Rybakina congratulated Sabalenka and acknowledged how hard her opponent had worked for her first major title.

“Hopefully we’re going to have many more battles,” she said.


“I had goosebumps when everyone was cheering for us… I’m looking forward to coming back next year.. It was an amazing two weeks for me and hopefully I’m going to have the same results and even better.”



Continue Reading

Most Viewed