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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday September 18, 2020

Victoria Azarenka and Daria Kasatkina were battling through a tense first set at the Foro Italico in Rome. It was one that was full of intensity and creativity - and dead even after 12 games. 48 points won per player, and four breaks of serve apiece.

Tennis Express

But disaster struck before the tiebreak could heat up. Kasatkina was forced to retire from the round of 16 tussle at the Internazionali BNL d'italia after turning her right ankle while sliding across the service line as she was attempting to retrieve a shot from Azarenka that had clipped the tape (full video above).

Azarenka, sensing the despair in Kasatkina, quickly headed to the other side of the net to console her. Eventually the Russian called it quits after consulting with a medical professional on court.

After Kasatkina retired from the match, the pair had a long discussion that quickly went viral on social media, the contents of which Azarenka later revealed in press as she discussed it with reporters.

“It ended in a really shitty way,” Azarenka said. “I’m really sad for Daria because we were playing such great tennis, I felt that it was such a good fight, she’s such a talented player.”

Azarenka continued with a longer discussion of her feelings for the Russian talent and her thoughts on the high quality of the contest in the first set.

“She’s such a talented player that I felt like she’s always on the verge of that breakthrough where she’s gonna pick it up and I felt like this was maybe closer to being her moment so it’s very unfortunate that she has an injury,” she said. “You know what, I feel like and I hope that this moment is going to be a turnaround for her, I know it’s an adversity but I hope she takes the best out of the situation and pushes forward. I feel like she can, I wish her that and I hope she’s going to be able to recover before French Open.”

Azarenka said she was impressed with the quality of play that Kasatkina produced, and there’s clearly a ton of respect between the two talents.

“I really hope she will recover because she has been playing so beautifully, so smart on the court, putting me in very uncomfortable situations where I had to really push myself so it was a really great battle out there - I was enjoying it a lot,” she said.

She said that Kasatkina called her back to her bench to tell her that she admired her comeback, and Azarenka added that she had some advice for the 23-year-old after their 76-minute encounter.

“I think it’s difficult to find the words when you have emotions. I know how sad she was and I could see that she worked really, really hard and it’s like this moment where you feel like ‘I worked so hard why did this happen to me right now, why again?’ So it’s hard to find the words and she was very gracious and she said that my comeback inspired her and I just told her: ‘You know just keep going, never think it’s over you can always try harder, just do the best out of the situation.’”

Azarenka, who has now won 14 of 15 matches after today, will look ahead to facing Garbiñe Muguruza in the quarterfinals. The Belarusian owns a 2-1 lifetime edge against the Spaniard, including a win at Rome last year when Muguruza retired down a set and break with an injury.


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