Post his 8th Australian Open win on Sunday, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic paid tribute to late basketball great Kobe Bryant by calling the NBA legend a mentor to him.

“One person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well with his daughter,” said Djokovic as quoted by IANS.

“I would like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever. Stay close to the people who love and care for you. We are part of professional sport, we compete and try our best but obviously there are more important things in life. It is important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you,” he added.

The Serbian Tennis star on Sunday came on top of an intense battle of grit and resilience which lasted five sets against Dominic Thiem to take home his record eighth Australian Open title at the Rod Laver Arena.

Trailing by one set to two, the world number two eventually won 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 against the youngster from Austria and extended his Grand Slam tally to 17 with only Rafael Nadal (19) and Roger Federer (20) ahead.

With the victory, Djokovic extends his unbeaten streak in 2020 to 13 matches and guarantees his return to the pole position in the ATP Rankings. He has also brought the head-to-head tally with Thiem to level at 4-4.