Tennis world pays tribute to friend, 'legend' Kobe


Tributes to Kobe Bryant poured in from the tennis world on Monday, after the NBA legend and his daughter Gianna were among several people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Bryant, 41, was a friend to many tennis players and wrote a children’s book about tennis in 2019.

“Woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsmen in the world,” Rafael Nadal wrote on Twitter. “Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.”

Just a few days ago at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic discussed how he had become friends with Bryant and how the former basketball star had helped him when he was going through some difficulties with injury.

“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN during an off-day interview Saturday. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him, and also of course, when we saw each other in the last couple of years, when I was going through my injury with the elbow and struggling to kind of mentally and emotionally handle all these things that were happening to me … he was one of the people who was really there for me and could give some very valuable guidelines.

“I’m very grateful to him for being there for me. I love Kobe — who doesn’t? Amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all time.”

Rod Laver was among others to offer their condolences.

“Terribly sad to wake up to this news today,” he wrote on Twitter. “RIP Kobe Bryant. Too young. Deepest condolences to family and friends of the sporting legend.”

Maria Sharapova, who knew both Bryant and his daughter, wrote on Twitter: “This is incredibly difficult to process. I will never forget your generosity, and the time you set aside in some of my most difficult moments. I am forever grateful. My heart is with you and your beautiful family.”

Teenage star Coco Gauff said Bryant was “the definition of intensity.”

Former women’s No. 1 Martina Navratilova said Bryant’s influence extended well beyond basketball.

“Few athletes transcend their sport, fewer athletes yet transcend sport itself, and Kobe was one of those people,” Navratilova said on the Tennis Channel. “Tragedy beyond words. What I really appreciate about him as a man is his support of women’s sports, girls’ sports. Most male athletes don’t [do] that, so we thank him for that. It’s just a shame that his second act may have been even greater than his basketball career.”

Stan Wawrinka tweeted “RIP Legend,” and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said: “Life can be so cruel. Tough to take in this terrible tragedy. RIP Kobe. Sending my sincere condolences to the Bryant family.”

Karolina Pliskova called Bryant “one of the greatest sportsmen of our lifetime.”

The ATP Tour also posted a statement to Twitter: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and others on board. On behalf of everyone at the ATP Tour, our thoughts and condolences are with the affected family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”

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