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Djokovic draws criticism after remarks about Kosovo-Serbia tension

Xinhua News Agency / Getty

PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic has drawn criticism from Kosovo’s tennis federation — but not from French Open organizers — after offering his thoughts on clashes in northern Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and police and NATO peacekeepers.

Djokovic is a 36-year-old from Serbia who has won 22 Grand Slam titles and is scheduled to play in the second round at Roland Garros on Wednesday.

After a first-round victory on Monday, Djokovic wrote in Serbian on the lens of a courtside TV camera: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence.”

Kosovo’s tennis federation said Tuesday that Djokovic’s comments were “deplorable” because he was stoking tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.

A former province of Serbia, Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence is not recognized by Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians make up most of the population, but Kosovo has a restive Serb minority in the north of the country bordering Serbia.

NATO said Tuesday it will send 700 more troops to northern Kosovo to help quell violent protests after clashes with ethnic Serbs left 30 international soldiers wounded. Tensions first increased over the weekend, after ethnic Albanian officials elected in votes overwhelmingly boycotted by Serbs entered municipal buildings. When the Serbs tried to block them, Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Speaking to reporters in Serbian, Djokovic said Monday that he thought what he wrote on the TV camera was “the least I could do.

“I feel responsibility as a public figure ... as well as a son of a man who was born in Kosovo,” Djokovic said.

Without mentioning Djokovic by name, French Open organizers indicated in a statement issued Tuesday that no rules had been broken: “Occasionally, discussions about international news events enter the realm of the tournament, which is understandable.”


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