MELBOURNE, Australia
Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic teared up on Tuesday as he paid tribute to
late basketball star Kobe Bryant, describing him as a “mentor” and a
“friend” for the past 10 years.

Djokovic, speaking after his Australian Open quarter-final
win against Milos Raonic, said it was “heartbreaking” to hear about
Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter and seven

“He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he
inspired myself and many other people around the world,” Djokovic said in
an on-court interview at Rod Laver Arena, wearing a tracksuit with the initials

“I had the fortune to have a personal relationship with
him over the past 10 years. When I needed some advice and some support he was
there for me. 

“He was my mentor, my friend and it’s just
heartbreaking to see and to hear what has happened to him and his
daughter,” Djokovic said, before breaking off to compose himself.

Djokovic and many other legends of tennis, including Billie
Jean King and Martina Navratilova, have voiced their grief over the death of
the former LA Lakers shooting guard, regarded as one of the greatest basketball
players in history.

On Monday, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios arrived for his
quarter-final wearing a Lakers shirt, and American doubles pair Coco Gauff and
Caty McNally had tributes to Bryant scrawled on their trainers.


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