Novak Djokovic pays tribute to Kobe Bryant after Australian Open victory

Speaking after his quarterfinal victory over Milos Raonic, Djokovic hailed Bryant, who died alongside his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday, as “one of the greatest athletes of all time”.

“He inspired myself and many other people around the world,” the Serb said in Melbourne.

“I had the fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.

“When I needed some advice and some support he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend. It’s heartbreaking to see and hear what has happened to him and his daughter.”

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Djokovic, the defending champion who next faces Roger Federer in the semifinals, also posted a heartfelt tribute to the NBA great on social media earlier this week.

He signed a TV camera lens with the names of Bryant of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna as he left the court.

Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios also paid tribute to Bryant during their fourth-round match Monday.

Kyrgios, a huge basketball fan, wore a Lakers jersey during his warmup and in the post-match press conference, while Nadal hailed him as “one of the greatest sportsmen in history.”