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Australian Open: Nick Kyrgios honors Kobe Bryant, shows fight vs. No. 1 Nadal

"[Bryant] has been one of the greatest sportsmen in history," top-seeded Rafael Nadal said after his match with Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia wears a Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers jersey on Monday during warmups before his match with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE
Nick Kyrgios of Australia wears a Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers jersey on Monday during warmups before his match with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo by Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios was in tears and sported a Kobe Bryant jersey before his match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open Monday to honor the late Los Angeles Lakers legend.

Kyrgios donned the yellow No. 8 jersey before the match to pay tribute to Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash with his teenage daughter Sunday in Calabasas, Calif. He put his hand over his heart before he was overcome with emotion and wiped tears from his face. He kept the jersey on for warmups before taking it off for the match.

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The tournament also aired a video tribute to Bryant on the big screen at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne before the match, which Kyrgios lost in four sets to the world men's No. 1 player.

Kyrgios' tribute wasn't the first at the Australian Open. American Cori "Coco" Gauff and teammate Caty McNally each honored Bryant by writing messages on their shoes for their doubles match Monday. Gauff wrote "'Mamba' Mentality" and the No. 24 on her shoes, referencing Bryant by his nickname. McNally wrote Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 on her shoes.

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Gauff and McNally also honored Bryant after their match by mimicking crossover dribbles and jump shots, after which they held up the numbers 2 and 4 with their fingers.

"We did it for Kobe today," McNally said after the match.

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Nadal wore a Lakers hat during his on-court interview, after defeating Kyrgios.

"What can I say? I woke up this morning with this terrible news. Super sad," Nadal said. "He has been one of the greatest sportsmen in history. He deserves a round of big applause."



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Kyrgios lost the first set 6-3, before winning the second by the same score. He went back-and-forth with the Spaniard in the third set, before Nadal won 8-6 in a tiebreak. Nadal won the fourth set 7-4 in a tiebreaker to knock Kyrgios out of the year's first Grand Slam.

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Kyrgios served eight aces, compared to Nadal's four and Nadal had seven unforced errors, compared to Kyrgios' 13. Nadal fired 18 winners in the victory.

"[Bryant] was always a true inspiration for the world of sport and a lot of kids," Nadal said after the match. "It's one of those days you want to forget, but Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives."

Men's tennis star Novak Djokovic also paid tribute to Bryant with an Instagram photo of himself with the Lakers legend. Djokovic called Bryant a "great mentor and friend."



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Alexander Zverev also advanced to the quarterfinals Monday night, knocking out Andrey Rublev in straight sets. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Angelique Kerber in three sets to climb to the next round.

Elsewhere in the men's singles draw, No. 15 Stan Wawrinka beat No. 4 Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2. Third-seeded Roger Federer beat Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. No. 5 Dominic Thiem topped No. 10 Gael Monfils in straight sets and American Tennys Sandgren edged No. 12 Fabio Fognini 7-6, 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-4.

In the women's draw, Garbine Muguruza upset No. 9 Kiki Bertens 6-6, 6-3. No. 4 Simona Halep edged No. 16 Elise Mertens in straight sets. No. 1 Ashleigh Barty beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 and No. 28 Anett Kontaveit beat Iga Swiatek 6-7 (7), 7-5, 7-5.

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