Novak Djokovic commenced his quest for a record 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title with a triumph, while world number one Carlos Alcaraz also advanced to the second round at the 2023 French Open.
Djokovic, a two-time champion secured a convincing 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Aleksandar Kovacevic. Likewise, US Open champion Alcaraz achieved a straight-sets win, defeating Italian Flavio Cobolli 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
Both players find themselves in the same half of the draw and potentially on a collision course for a semi-final encounter.
Following his triumph over American-born Kovacevic, who has Serbian heritage, Djokovic wrote a statement on a camera lens that read: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence.”
This message referred to recent tensions in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. While Serbia has not recognized Kosovo’s independence, violent incidents have occurred in the past few days following the appointment of ethnic Albanian mayors in the northern part of the country.
When speaking to Serbian journalists, Djokovic, whose father was born in Kosovo, clarified his stance: “I am not a politician, nor do I intend to engage in debates. As a Serb, I am pained by what is happening in Kosovo. Our people have been expelled from municipalities. This is the least I could do. As a public figure, I feel obliged to show support for our people and for Serbia as a whole.”
Djokovic acknowledged the criticism he faced on social media and expressed his readiness to face potential consequences for his actions. Nevertheless, he asserted his opposition to wars and conflicts of any kind. Djokovic emphasized the significance of Kosovo as a cultural and historical center for Serbia, citing its role in important events, major battles, and the presence of numerous monasteries.
It’s worth noting that Djokovic was previously involved in a political controversy during the Australian Open in January. This occurred when his father, Srdjan, was filmed posing for pictures with supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.