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Djokovic defends father over Russia flag controversy

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Djokovic defends father over Russia flag controversy

Novak Djokovic defended his father after a video emerged showing him posing at the Australian Open with some fans holding Russian flags, saying he was “misused” by the individuals and that his family was against war.

Djokovic s father Srdjan skipped his son s semi-final win over Tommy Paul on Friday, choosing to “watch from home” instead after a video emerged on social media following the Serbian s quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.

The video caused controversy and led to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reiterating support for Ukraine and criticising supporters of Russia s invasion.

“He (Srdjan) was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people,” Djokovic told reporters.

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“I can t be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans.

“After that, he felt bad and he knew how that s going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that has happened in the last 24-48 hours.”

Djokovic said it was unfortunate the issue had escalated.

“My father, my whole family and myself have been through several wars during the 90s,” Djokovic said.

“We are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war.

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“My father was passing through. There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That s what he thought. He thought he was taking a photo with somebody from Serbia. That s it. He moved on.”

Srdjan said earlier in an emailed statement that he was only in Melbourne to support his son.

“So there is no disruption to tonight s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home,” Srdjan said.

Djokovic faces Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday s final seeking a record-extending 10th title at Melbourne Park and 22nd Grand Slam to equal Rafa Nadal.

Tennis Australia declined to comment on whether Srdjan would be welcomed back for the final, but Djokovic hoped he would be in his box.

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“It wasn t pleasant not to have him,” Djokovic said. “I hope to have him.”

Earlier, asked by a reporter if Srdjan should be deported for posing with the fans, Albanese told a news conference that Australia “stands with the people of Ukraine.”

“That is Australia s position and Australia is unequivocal in our support for the rule of international law,” he said.

“We do not want to see any support given to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that is having a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine.”

FLAG CONTROVERSY

Police had questioned four fans seen with “inappropriate flags and symbols” after Djokovic s match with Rublev.

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Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at the Australian Open, though their flags are banned from the tournament following a complaint by Ukraine s ambassador last week.

Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk said she was pained by the Russian flags, expressing surprise at the lapse in security that allowed fans to display them.

A video on social media showed a fan on the steps of Rod Laver Arena holding up a Russian flag with the picture of President Vladimir Putin on it.

Photos also showed one fan with a “Z” on his shirt. Russian forces have used the letter as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following their invasion.

Some supporters of the invasion have also used the sign.

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The fan was spotted again on Friday without the “Z” shirt and a Tennis Australia spokesperson said he was allowed to return after cooperating with the authorities.

Djokovic, who was deported ahead of the 2022 tournament over his Covid-19 vaccination status, said the latest controversy was not pleasant after what he dealt with last year.

“It s not something that I want or need. I hope that people will let it be, and we can focus on tennis,” he said.

“It s not an ideal situation or circumstances to be in when you have to deal with all these other outside factors that are not really necessary during such an important event.

“But it s been part of my life. Unfortunately the last few years more so. I try to evolve from it. I try to become more resilient, more stronger.”

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Luis Sinisterra has made his move to AFC Bournemouth from Leeds United permanent, signing a long-term deal with the Premier League team on Friday.

Bournemouth reportedly agreed to a £20 million fee with Championship (second-tier) side Leeds.

The 24-year-old Colombian had been impressive since joining Bournemouth in September on a loan spell from Leeds United, with three goals and three assists in his 17 appearances.

“I’m really happy to make this move. I’m excited to play for Bournemouth for the long term,” Sinisterra said. “I feel really comfortable here and the fans are really nice. When I meet them in the streets, they show the love.”

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Andoni Iraola’s team are 12th in the table on 27 points, but are winless in their last four games. They play Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. 

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

 Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma returned to Tottenham Hotspur this week from international duty, and both are ready for Spurs’ game with Brighton & Hove Albion, manager Ange Postecoglou said on Friday.

Son was involved with South Korea at the Asian Cup where they lost to Jordan in the semi-final on Tuesday while Bissouma’s Mali exited the Africa Cup of Nations last weekend at the quarter-final stage.

Spurs, fifth in the standings on 44 points, host Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto De Zerbi’s side in eighth place on 35 points.

“Sonny and Biss they trained well. Sonny did recovery on Thursday and trained today,” Postecoglou told a press conference.

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“He is very disappointed for Korea’s exit, at the semi-final stage you feel so close. But he gave everything for his nation, no-one could question his commitment.

“I spoke to him after and he was keen to be back, so no surprise he was back training straight away.”

The manager also played down concerns over Bissouma, after media reports that he had played through the illness with malaria at the tournament.

“No, that’s not right. He had a slight form of malaria before the tournament, but it cleared up by the start of tournament. He’s 100 percent now.”

Manor Solomon hasn’t played since September and Postecoglou confirmed that the winger had another procedure on his knee earlier this week and is still another two or three weeks away from a return.

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Another injury concern was Giovani Lo Celso who missed the last three league games for Spurs.

“Lo Celso trained all week but he’s missed a fair bit of football so we’ll see whether he needs another week or not,” the manager said.

“It’s probably, for want of a better word, the healthiest squad we’ve had for quite a while anyway.”

Spurs conceded an added-time equaliser at Everton last weekend and lost to a late Nathan Ake goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but conceding late is not something that overly concerns their manager.

“It’s disappointing to concede goals at any point. People will want to analyse it,” Postecoglou said.

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“I’m sorry but we’re going to be a team that will score or concede goals late. The way we want to close out games is by trying to score goals late on.

“One thing we’re not going to do is jump at shadows and try to fix the latest thing being analysed.” 

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Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

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Fils ends 'great champion' Gasquet's 956 weeks in top 100

 Rising star Arthur Fils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday to end the veteran’s run of more than 18 years in the world’s top 100.

The 19-year-old Fils cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the 37-year-old Gasquet, who had enjoyed a remarkable 956 consecutive weeks in the top 100, peaking at number seven in July 2007.

Gasquet was defending the Auckland title and points he won 12 months ago, so the first-round defeat will see him slide down from 76th in the world when new rankings are released next week.

Fils, with a booming serve that produced nine aces, broke at 2-2 in the first set and at 1-1 in the second and applauded Gasquet as he left the court.

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“He’s a great champion. He did an unbelievable career so I’m really happy to play on the court with him,” said Fils, who reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open last week.

“But it was a nice match for my part and I’m really happy.”

In other action, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov looked rusty in his first match since Wimbledon last year, losing Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-2.

Roberto Bautista Agut was beaten by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 and eighth seed Max Purcell of Australia overcame New Zealand’s 716th-ranked wildcard Kiranpal Pannu 6-4, 6-4.

The top four seeds, Ben Shelton, Cameron Norrie, Francisco Cerundolo and Felix Auger-Aliassime, all had first-round byes. 

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