Novak Djokovic has broken down in tears speaking about the death of his “mentor and friend” Kobe Bryant.
After his straight sets Australian Open quarter-final win over Milos Raonic, the Serbian world number two was asked by John McEnroe if he had a message about Bryant.
Djokovic cried as he opened up on his friendship with the late Los Angeles Lakers superstar.
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“I mean – I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise,” he said.
“He was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He inspired myself and many other people around the world.
“I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last ten years. When I needed some advice and some support, he was there for me.
“He was my mentor, my friend. It is just heartbreaking to see and to hear what has happened to him and his daughter.”
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Djokovic paid tribute to Bryant before his match with Raonic, wearing “KB 8 24” and a love heart on his jacket – Bryant’s initials and two jersey numbers as a Laker.
After the match, he wrote a message to Bryant and his daughter Gianna – who also died in the helicopter crash that took Bryant’s life – on the camera lens.
“My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend,” Djokovic said on Instagram yesterday.
“There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy.
“May God bless you and Gianna. Thank you for being there for me and inspiring the entire world.
“Thank you for showing all of us athletes how to compete and respect sport. Thank you for the greatest legacy you leave behind with us.
“I’ll never forget your smile spreading positive energy everywhere you went. You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts.”