Novak Djokovic rallies and tallies to create history in Melbourne on Sunday, extending his record to eight Australian Open titles. Djokovic defeated Austria’s Dominic Thiem in a gruelling five-set epic at the Rod Laver arena to earn his No. 1 spot in the ATP Rankings. After the win, the great Serb paid a special tribute to late Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who passed away along with eight others in a helicopter crash in California on January 26.

“There were some devastating things that started 2020 with huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world, people dying every day,” Djokovic said.

“Obviously one person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well with his daughter. I would just like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever.”

In his speech after being presented with the Norman Brookes trophy, Djokovic also spoke about the bushfires that ravaged Australia at the turn of the year and Bryant’s death.

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“Be with our families, stay close with the people that love you, that care about you. Of course we are part of a professional sport, we compete and we try our best but obviously there are more important things in life and it’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you,” the 32-year-old further added.

Earlier, Djokovic donated $25,000 to aid bushfire relief fund. He was one of the players to participate in the Rally for Relief held on Rod Laver before the start of the Australian Open 2020. That event raised nearly AUD $5 million for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

The Serbian ace also didn’t forget to thank his opponent Thiem for challenging him to the very end in the summit clash.

“Congratulations to Dominic for an amazing tournament, it wasn’t meant to be tonight tough luck. It was a tough match and you were very close to winning it, you definitely have lot more time in your career and I’m sure that you will get one of the Grand Slam trophies and more,” Djokovic said.

With this win, Djokovic improved to 16-0 in semifinals and finals at Melbourne Park. No other man in the history of tennis has won this tournament more than six times. With this, Djokovic has extended his all-time Grand Slam tally to 17, three shy of Roger Federer (20) and two behind Rafael Nadal (19).