Novak Djokovic (36-Serbia-World No. 3), regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, defeated Aleksandar Kovacevic (25-114) of the United States in straight sets (6-3 6-2 7-6<7-1>) in the first round of the men’s singles on March 29. After hugging Kovacevic and exchanging words of encouragement, Djokovic signed the lenses of the broadcast cameras, as is customary. In Serbian, he said, “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence,” in Serbian, a political message that sparked controversy. 스포츠토토

It was a reference to the conflict that erupted in April when an Albanian mayor was elected in local elections in northern Kosovo. Kosovo, which is about 92% Albanian and 6% Serb in a population of 1.9 million, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize the breakaway province and considers it part of its own country. So when local elections were held in one Serb-majority town in northern Kosovo, they refused to vote, resulting in a sweep of mayoral positions by Albanians with only 3.47% turnout. Serbs found this unacceptable and began blocking the mayor’s office, leading to clashes with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) peacekeepers.

The Kosovo Olympic Committee fired back, saying that “Djokovic used sports to promote Serbian nationalist causes,” and that “such behavior only increases tensions between the two countries.” Djokovic, who beat Hungary’s Marton Puchovic (ranked 31-83) 3-0 in the second round on day one, was cautious, saying, “That’s my belief,” but “I didn’t do it today because there were people who were against it.”

Earlier, in the first round of the women’s singles on March 28, world No. 2 Arina Savalenka (25-Belarus) omitted the customary handshake after defeating Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk (21-39) 2-0. Kostyuk refused to shake her hand. The crowd then booed. Kostuk has been calling for athletes from aggressor Russia and its ally Belarus to be banned from competing since shortly after the Russian-Ukrainian war broke out in February last year. “I understand his situation,” Savalenka said, “but no athlete supports war.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *