Photo: CLODAGH KILCOYNE / REUTERS
Serbian tennis star Novak Djoković used his opening victory at the French Open for a political message. After the clear three-set success against the American Aleksandar Kovacevic, the 22-time Grand Slam tournament winner wrote: "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence!" on the lens of a TV camera.
Most of the time, the players on the big pitches sign with their signature after victories, but also use this for messages. The Russian player Andrei Rublev, for example, placed anti-war messages on the camera lens twice.
The organizers of the French Open were asked to comment on Djoković's action. According to the basic ethical rules of the French Tennis Federation, the public expression of political and religious opinions is prohibited, among other things. Whether this also applies to the French Open was initially unclear.
Djoković wants to show support
The background to Djoković's action is the recent unrest in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo. Militant Serbs had protested against the appointment of new mayors in Zvecan and other municipalities. 30 soldiers of the NATO-led Kosovo protection force KFOR were injured. In addition, according to a hospital in Mitrovica, 53 Serbs were injured.
Kosovo, which is now inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians, declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the statehood of its former province and demands its return.
"As a Serb, it hurts me what is happening in Kosovo, our people have been expelled from the municipal office," Djoković said on Monday, according to Serbian media, in the Serbian part of his press conference at the embassy. "As a public figure," he said, he felt "obliged to show support for our people and the whole of Serbia."