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Tennis star Novak Djoković


Jean-François Badias / AP

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has criticized Novak Djoković's political message at the French Open as "inappropriate" and issued a warning to the Serbian tennis star. When it comes to defending human rights and bringing people together on universal values, every athlete is allowed to do so," she said on France 2 TV. However, Djoković's message was "militant, very political" and should not be repeated.

The 22-time Grand Slam tournament winner had after the first-round win against the American Aleksandar Kovacevic: "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence!« is written on the lens of a TV camera. Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo spoke with Djoković and his team and pointed out the principles of "neutrality", reported the French sports minister.

The organizers had left open whether there were concrete consequences for the action and only pointed out in a general statement that the same rules would apply to all Grand Slam.

Kosovo's National Olympic Committee called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ask the ITF to investigate the incident and initiate disciplinary proceedings against Djoković. The IOC was asked for comment.

Unrest in Kosovo

The background to Djoković's action is the recent unrest in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo. Militant Serbs had protested against the installation of new mayors in Zvečan 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.

Djoković had stated that he felt obliged "as a public figure" to "show support for our people and all of Serbia".