'Class act': Tennis world moved by 'beautiful' moment of sportsmanship

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Seen here, Victoria Azarenka brings an ice pack out for injured Daria Kasatkina.
Victoria Azarenka was praised for her incredible sportsmanship at the Italian Open. Pic: WTA

Victoria Azarenka has been praised for a moment of pure class in her Italian Open victory over Daria Kasatkina.

The Belarusian's passage to the next round came after a devastating injury to Kasatkina that forced the Russian to retire from the match.

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The first set was delicately poised at 6-6 at the time, making Kasatkina's heartbreak that much harder to take.

Kasatkina rolled her right ankle while chasing a ball in the tiebreak, with Azarenka immediately rushing to her side to offer assistance.

The scenes that transpired next left viewers in awe of Azarenka's incredible displays of sportsmanship as she went out of her way to attend to her stricken opponent.

Azarenka, 31, brought her an ice pack and a towel before helping the Russian qualifier, who burst into tears, to her chair where she received treatment.

She later helped her opponent pack her bags, before kneeling down to offer her words of encouragement, followed by a warm embrace

Viewers were genuinely moved by Azarenka’s concern for her fellow competitor.

The Belarusian was showered with praise on social media for her stunning act of sportsmanship.

"I'm really sad for Daria, because we were playing such great tennis. I felt that it was such a great fight," Azarenka told reporters after the match which had eight breaks of serve.

"She's such a talented player that I felt like is always on the verge of kind of that breakthrough where she's going to pick it up. I felt like this was maybe closer to be her moment, so it's very unfortunate that she has an injury.

"I offered her my help and my team's help if she needs it. I really hope she recovers. She's been playing so beautifully, so smart on the court, putting me in very uncomfortable situations where I had to really push myself."

Azarenka even helped pack her opponent's bag and kissed Kasatkina on her forehead after a long chat before the tearful 23-year-old held her hand and spoke to her at length.

Pictured here, Azarenka offers words of encouragement to Daria Kasatkina at the Italian Open.
Azarenka could be seen consoling her distraught opponent after the match-ending injury. Pic: WTA

Azarenka offers words of encouragement for rival

"She was very gracious. She said that my comeback inspired her," Azarenka added. "I told her that, 'Just keep going. Never think it's over. You can always try harder. Just do the best out of the situation'.

"And I think she will, she's a strong girl. She has big personality, I think she'll be fine."

Azarenka now has a quarter-final showdown with ninth seed Garbine Muguruza, who beat Briton Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1.

Simona Halep and defending women's champion Karolina Pliskova also both eased into the quarter-finals of the Italian Open.

Top seed Halep rallied from 3-0 down in the first set to see off Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska in a 7-5, 6-4 victory that took one hour and 28 minutes.

"Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets," said Halep.

The two-time Rome finalist next meets Yulia Putintseva, who battled back from 6-4, 5-2 down to see off fellow Kazakh Elena Rybakina, the 10th seed, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.

World number four Pliskova dominated 65th-ranked Anna Blinkova 6-4, 6-3 in their third round match.

with agencies

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