Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has revealed a decision on whether Novak Djokovic’s father will attend the Australian Open final is yet to be made, in what he describes as a ‘different’ situation.
An eleventh-hour call on whether Novak Djokovic’s father attends Sunday night’s Australian Open men’s final looms amid a Russian flag furore that has engulfed the final days of the tournament.
Tournament director Craig Tiley, speaking to News Corp on Saturday night, confirmed that a decision on whether Srjdan Djokovic will attend his son’s potentially slam record-equalling clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas would not be made until the hours before the match.
Djokovic Snr was on Wednesday night captured in phone footage engaging with pro-Russian demonstrators on the steps of Rod Laver Arena.
He posed for a photo with a man wearing a T-shirt bearing symbols that supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, who also carried a Russian flag emblazoned with Vladimir Putin’s face
Tiley said there were “still conversations happening around” whether Djokovic will sit courtside as his son bids for a 22nd grand slam title and what could be his 10th Australian Open.
“I couldn’t give you a definitive answer now. We’re in a different situation, and (on Sunday) night, whether or not that has an impact on it or not … I think the decision not to be there on Friday night was on the fact that there was a lot of intensity around that action,” Tiley said.
“He was very clear that he had absolutely no intent for this to happen. And that there was no purposeful position to do it.
“The family were devastated that it came across that way, and particularly Novak because he as focused on winning.
“One thing I know about Novak is that sometimes the more distractions he has, sometimes the better he becomes. He’s very good at singling in. But you can only take so much.”
Tiley said any decision on whether Djokovic Snr attends will be “a combination of things” but there had been no discussion of removing his tournament accreditation in the wake of the incident.
“We do the security assessment … which gets done (on Sunday) morning,” he said.
“We communicate what that is and then a decision will be made.”
Russian and Belarusian flags have been banned from Melbourne Park grounds while players for those countries are also playing under a neutral flag.
Novak Djokovic said on Friday night that reports his father had said “long live Russia” in the video was “a misinterpretation” and that he was “sorry it had escalated so much”.
Tiley said Djokovic Snr “doesn’t intend to disrupt anything”, but conceded he did not know what was said.
“He’s here for his kid, and he’s not here for anything else. That was made very clear,” he said.
“The Serbian fans are loving his success and they’re very active and they have a lot of fun and he went out into that environment to do the same thing, and not expecting to be put into that situation.
“I know for a fact that there was no intent. I don’t know exactly what was said … we don’t know what was said, exactly. But at the end of the day, I know he was very upset that it came across that way. I know Novak and have known Novak for a long time. He has been outspoken against war.
“I’ve been to Belgrade and I’ve seen the remnants (of war) … I completely understand that they would feel that way, under any circumstance.”
Tiley has had direct conversations with a number of Ukrainian players about the situation, and on Friday spoke directly with Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko, who had been critical of Tennis Australia’s response and called on tournament organisers to be stronger in their condemnation of the war.
But Tiley defended Tennis Australia’s position.
“We made our position clear on it, that we’re absolutely against war,” he affirmed.
“We support the Ukrainian people … we also covered the expenses of all the Ukrainian teams while they were here.
“The ambassador was completely reasonable. He represents a nation that is under siege. I reiterated our support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian peop
le, and I did tell him that Novak’s father wasn’t going to be at the tennis (on Friday night).
“He wanted to be assured that we were in a position that we remained against the war, and he is a reasonable guy.”
Tiley backed in the tournament’s security and the response from Victoria Police, and said the Australian becoming “a massive global platform” was an adjustment.
But he is adamant that there will be no room for trouble at Sunday night’s men’s final.
“That’s why we keep saying, if anyone comes on site that is going to be disruptive to anyone else, they will be kicked out and I will do everything we can to make sure they never come back on site,” he said.
“We’re running a major global sporting event, and the eyes of the world are on Melbourne in January. It’s a platform for that kind of conduct, potentially.
“That’s why (security and police) have got to be very vigilant and do their job.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Craig Tiley reveals why no decision has been made on Novak Djokovic’s father attending the final