Two days after Djokovic interview, Kobe was gone

Novak Djokovic reacts following a point at the 2019 U.S. Open.
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Ricky Dimon

Tennis · 2 years ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Novak Djokovic on Kobe Bryant:

“Kobe has been one my mentors. I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the last couple of years when I was going through my injury with the elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all these different things that were happening to me…he was one of the people [who] was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.

“I’m very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe; who doesn’t? He’s an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all time.”

Those were not posthumous comments following the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven other people on Sunday morning. Djokovic said those things on Friday.

Two days after Djokovic’s interview with ESPN, Kobe Bryant was gone.

Mourning Kobe

“My heart truly mourns over the news today,” the second-ranked Serb posted via social media on Sunday afternoon. “Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me. You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy. RIP my friend”.

Djokovic was not the only tennis player currently in action at the Australian Open to weigh in on the tragedy that has rocked the sports world.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal penned the following: “I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest [sportsmen] in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.”

The show must go on

But the show goes on, of course, just as it did in the NBA (all of the league’s Sunday games proceeded as scheduled). Nadal is taking the court for his fourth-round match against Nick Kyrgios on Monday, while Djokovic is already through to the quarterfinals for a date with Milos Raonic on Tuesday (check out our free tennis expert picks).

A seven-time Aussie Open champion, Djokovic is a perfect 9-0 lifetime against Raonic. This could be tough one, however, as the huge-serving Canadian has not dropped a single set so far at this event not has even dropped a single service game. Djokovic has lost just one set—to Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round.

The Kobe news may add to the difficulty for Djokovic. But few athletes have the “Mamba Mentality” to dial in with laser-like focus quite like Djokovic. In all likelihood he will rise to the occasion.

It’s what Kobe would want.

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