Novak Djokovic says he will ‘never have a drama-free grand slam’ after Kosovo controversy at French Open

ROLAND GARROS — Novak Djokovic says he has given up hope on keeping his French Open “drama-free” but refused to back down over his controversial statement on Kosovo.

Djokovic booked his place in the third round at Roland Garros on Wednesday night, beating Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 7-6(2) 6-0 6-3.

It was a stuttering performance that improved as the wind died down, but it was also the first time Djokovic had played since he wrote “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia – stop violence” on a camera lens.

The political backlash to the slogan, which denies the independence of the state of Kosovo, saw the head of Kosovan tennis call for Djokovic to be sanctioned and fined, sending an official complaint to the organisers of the French Open.

“I would say it again, but I don’t need to because you have my quotes if you want to reflect on that,” Djokovic said.

“Of course I’m aware that a lot of people would disagree, but it is what it is. It’s something that I stand for. So that’s all.

“Drama-free grand slam? I don’t think it can happen for me. I guess that drives me, as well.”

Djokovic’s comments drew criticism from the French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, who told television channel France 2, who said that his intervention was “not appropriate, clearly”.

She added: “There’s a principle of neutrality for the field of play. When you carry messages about defending human rights, messages that bring peoples together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to express them.

“But in this case, it was a message that is very activist, that is very political. You shouldn’t get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn’t happen again.”

Oudea-Castera is also a former head of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), which runs the French Open, and said that tournament director Amelie Mauresmo had spoken to Djokovic and his team after the incident.

Asked for a reaction to the minister’s words, Djokovic simply added: “I have no more comment on that. I said what I needed to say.”

It appears that Djokovic is unlikely to face any sanction, with the FFT understood to believe he has not broken any rules and the ITF stating that “the rules for players at grand slam events are determined by the rules of those tournaments, which are applied by the organisers and regulatory authorities. There is no provision that prohibits political statements.”

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