|Dates: May 28 – June 11 place: Roland Garros, Paris|
|coverage: Live text and radio commentary of selected matches via BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, the BBC Sport website and app|
France’s sports minister said Novak Djokovic’s political message about Kosovo at the French Open was “inappropriate” and “should not happen again”.
Amelie Odea Castera said there should be a “principle of neutrality on the field of play”.
“Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence,” Serbian Djokovic wrote. on the viewfinder.
Referring to recent tensions in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Serbia never recognized the independence of Kosovo and there It was violent in the old days Following the inauguration of ethnic Albanian mayors in the north of the country, police and NATO forces clashed with Serb demonstrators.
The International Tennis Federation, the international tennis federation, said Djokovic’s statement did not violate any rules because the Grand Slam rule book does not prohibit political statements.
“When you carry messages about defending human rights, messages that bring people together around universal values, the athlete is free to express it,” Odia Castera told France 2.
“But in this case it was a very active message, it’s very political. You shouldn’t get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn’t happen again.”
Odea Castera said it discriminated against messages supportive of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, adding that it did not put Kosovo and Ukraine “on the same level”.
This includes the support of the Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk, which was booed by the crowd After she refused to shake hands with Arina Sabalenka of Belarus on Sunday.
Belarus is an ally of Russia and allowed troops to use its territory to launch an invasion of Ukraine last year.
“What is happening to the Ukrainians in the ring is very painful and very difficult,” said Odea Castera.
“You can understand [Kostyuk’s refusal to shake hands]. Even if you would like there to always be fair play even a handshake, but there is pain and I respect it.”
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who has repeatedly spoken of tennis’ reaction to the Russian invasion, said Djokovic should be allowed to have his say.
“We live in the free world, so why don’t you say what you think about something?” said Svitolina, after defeating Storm Hunter in the second round.
“I feel like if you stand for something, you think that’s the way it is, you should say.”
Djokovic, 36, defended his letter, which he wrote immediately after his first-round victory over Aleksandar Kovacevich on Tuesday.
Speaking to Serbian journalists, the 22-time singles champion, whose father was born in Kosovo, said he is “against wars, violence and any kind of conflict” but that the situation in Kosovo is “a precedent in international law”.
“As the son of a man who was born in Kosovo, I feel the need to offer my support to our people and all of Serbia,” said Djokovic.
“Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, the center of the most important things for our country. There are many reasons why I wrote this on camera.
“Of course it pains me a lot as a Serb to see what is happening in Kosovo and the way our people have been practically expelled from the municipal offices, so it was the least I could do.”
Kosovo’s Olympic authorities asked the IOC to open disciplinary proceedings against Djokovic, accusing him of stirring up political tension.
“Novak Djokovic once again promoted Serbian nationalist propaganda and used the sports platform to do so,” said Ismet Krasniqi, president of the Kosovo Olympic Committee.
The Kosovo Tennis Federation said on Tuesday that Djokovic’s actions would directly increase tensions between the two countries.
The French Tennis Federation, which organizes the French Open, said there were no rules about what players can say at a Grand Slam, and that it was “understandable” that discussions about international news events took place at the tournament.
“The same rules apply to all four Grand Slam tournaments. The tournament referee and Grand Slam match officials ensure these rules are adhered to,” a statement read.
“Messages are sent to the teams of any players involved in such matters.”
Djokovic’s message ‘must ruffle feathers’
Guy DeLoney, BBC News Balkans correspondent
The phrase “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” may sound like a strange statement. After all, Kosovo gained its independence in 2008 — and its geographic location in the southwest meant that, even before then, it had always been on the fringes of Serbia.
But its symbolic significance remains crucial to many Serbs. The Battle of Kosovo in 1389 has been legendarily regarded as a decisive event in the formation of Serbian identity. Many of the most important sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church are located within modern Kosovo.
Serbia is one of dozens of countries that refuse to recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. Serbs with family ties to Kosovo are particularly keen to ensure that Serbia’s policy of non-recognition continues.
It’s been a turbulent month for Serbia – with Mass shootings and multiple protests – An ethnic Serb in Kosovo. By writing his message on the field, the country’s sporting icon showed his support — but in a way that’s bound to ruffle feathers.
Scribbling with his pen, Djokovic accurately illustrated the enduring complexity of the situation.