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Rafael Nadal pays tribute to Kobe Bryant by wearing Lakers hat after beating Nick Kyrgios

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Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after his win over Nick Kyrgios by wearing a Los Angeles Lakers cap during his post match interview. Nadal beat the Australian Kyrgios to move into the quarter-finals where he will face Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals.

And Nadal donned a black hat with ‘Lakers’ printed in yellow below the Nike swoosh.

Rafael Nadal

When asked about Bryant by John McEnroe to comment on it, Nadal said: “I wake up this morning with this terrible news. It’s super sad. He has been one of the greatest sportsmen in history, so he deserves a round of big applause.

“I didn’t spend time with him but I met him. I have a very close friend that was playing with him for a long time, Pau Gasol and he always told me he has the spirit of overcoming, of hardworking, he always wanted more, he always wanted to increase his level, he has been a true inspiration for the world of sport“It’s one of these days you want to forget but Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts for the rest of our lives.”

The death has sent shockwaves through sport and Kyrgios entered the court today wearing a Lakers jersey and was emotional as he walked on.

Bryant was on board his private helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who were all killed.

They were travelling for her to play basketball at the Mamba Campus when the helicopter crashed into the mountainous area of Calabasas.

Nick Kyrgios in tears as he pays tribute to Kobe Bryant ahead of Rafael Nadal showdown

Nick Kyrgios had to wipe the tears from his eyes as emotions got the better of him ahead of his clash with Rafael Nadal.

Nick Kyrgios

The 24-year-old is devastated by the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who passed away in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

The Australian Open paid tribute to the 41-year-old by portraying images on the big screen inside Rod Laver Arena.

Kyrgios wore a ‘Bryant 8’ Los Angeles Lakers jersey throughout the warm-up as his own personal tribute.

But when the world No 26 walked out onto Melbourne Park’s centre court he began to well up.

Tennis fans were quick to offer their sympathy to the home favourite on social media.

The 24-year-old is devastated by the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who passed away in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

The Australian Open paid tribute to the 41-year-old by portraying images on the big screen inside Rod Laver Arena.

Kyrgios wore a ‘Bryant 8’ Los Angeles Lakers jersey throughout the warm-up as his own personal tribute.

But when the world No 26 walked out onto Melbourne Park’s centre court he began to well up.

Tennis fans were quick to offer their sympathy to the home favourite on social media.

Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios was emotional as he walked on to Rod Laver Arena (Image: GETTY)
“Kyrgios crying just broke me.. I’m done #AustralianOpen #ausopen,” one person wrote.

While another added: “Kyrgios is crying non stop. Rafa is probably doing the same inside. What a game this is going to be.”

And a further user said: “Never had more in common with Kyrgios than right now; we both crying over Kobe.”

One other person wrote: “I’m literally so heartbroken, seeing Kyrgios come out in the Lakers jersey and crying, wow my emotions were not ready for this.”

Nick Kyrgios

Meanwhile, Nadal paid his own respects to Bryant by tweeting: “I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world.

“Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.”

A host of other Australian Open stars also spoke of their sadness.

Stefanos Tsitsipas tweeted a picture of the five-time NBA champion with two heart emojis.

And Denis Shapovalov wrote: “Can’t believe what I’m hearing. RIP”

Nick Kyrgios

World No 2 Karolina Pliskova wrote: “One of the greatest sportmen of our lifetime. RIP.”

Two-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka said: RIP LEGEND! #kobebryant.

Maria Sharapova added: Kobe and Gigi, this is incredibly difficult to process. I will never forget your generosity, and the time you set aside in some of my difficult moments.

“I am forever grateful. My heart is with you and your beautiful family.

American Sloane Stephens was also deeply distressed, saying: “I truly can’t believe this. My heart is so heavy. Rest in peach Kobe. What an unimaginable loss. All of my prayers to your loved ones.

Gabrine Muguruza added: “Live life to the fullest. RIP #KobeBryant.”

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