Novak Djokovic
Kosovo our cradle': Novak Djokovic after his win over Aleksandar Kovacevic on Monday AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND

Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has been reprimanded by French Open tournament director Amelie Mauresmo after he made a call to end the violence in Kosovo during the ongoing 2023 French Open at Roland Garros.

The conversation between Mauresmo and Djokovic and his entourage was revealed by French Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera on Wednesday. The minister admits that she shares Mauresmo's stance on the matter, saying that the player's decision to speak about the conflict was "not appropriate" and that the tournament officials had to step in to insist on "neutrality" during the event which is watched by millions around the world.

Oudea-Castera did not mince words and slammed the Serb even further, calling his message "militant, very political" and "must not be repeated."

What is the issue all about?

On Monday, Djokovic started a row after his victory over Aleksandar Kovacevic at the French Open. As is customary for every match, he was asked to sign a camera lens. The 22-time Grand Slam champion took the opportunity to speak out against the violent clashes in Kosovo. He wrote in Serbian, "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence."

For those unaware, clashes broke out in Kosovo last week after ethnic Serbs boycotted local elections and staged protests against newly-elected ethnic Albanian officials. Violence erupted while the officials were trying to enter municipal buildings in the region. Local authorities and NATO peacekeepers were forced to intervene.

Djokovic explained that his statement comes from his personal ties to the region, with his father having been born in Kosovo. "As a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to our people and to entire Serbia," he said, clarifying that he is against wars, violence and conflict.

Despite his insistence that his words are meant to help stop the conflict, he has been accused of stoking the fire and further fuelling the tension in the region.

"The comments made by Novak Djokovic at the end of his Roland Garros match against Aleksandar Kovacevic, his statements at the post-match press conference and his Instagram post are regrettable," said Kosovo Tennis Federation President Jeton Hadergjonaj.

He also pointed out that Djokovic is contradicting himself when he spoke against the violence while also sharing a politically abrasive statement. "Novak Djokovic was already the author of similar actions in the past. Despite a general message against violence, the statement 'Kosovo is the heart of Serbia' and further statements after the match, made by such a public figure, on the occasion of a worldwide event like the French Open, directly result in raising the level of tension between the two states, Serbia and Kosovo," added Hadergjonaj, as quoted by Fox News.

As of now, the International Tennis Federation has confirmed that they have received a complaint from Kosovo, but have so far not opened a disciplinary case against the former French Open champion.

ITF president David Haggerty said that they have forwarded the complaint to the French Federation as well as the ATP, and is leaving it up to the two bodies to decide on further action.

Meanwhile, there is an alleged double standard when it comes to the reaction over political statements made on tour. Some were questioning how Ukrainian players are allowed to speak out against Russian and Belarusian players on tour, without receiving a slap on the wrist for their political statements against the conflict in their country.

"When it comes to defending human rights and bringing people together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to do so," Oudea-Castera said.