Tennis world reacts to star’s classy kiss
Hearts melted across the tennis world after Victoria Azarenka's touching display of sportsmanship towards her distraught rival.
The beaten US Open finalist was playing Daria Kasatkina in the round of 16 at the Italian Open this morning when the pair were locked in a first-set tiebreak after neither player could grab the upper hand.
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But disaster struck for Kasatkina when she took a tumble on the court, the nasty fall causing an injury that prevented her from carrying on.
Azarenka retrieved ice and jogged it over to the 23-year-old, and even helped take her right shoe off as she sat on the clay in Rome to help apply the ice to her ankle.
Kasatkina became overwhelmed with emotion and started sobbing on the court. Azarenka continued to show her true class, grabbing a towel and wiping dirt and sweat off her opponent before putting an arm around her and consoling the world No. 74.
Kasatkina retired and the youngster's sadness was obvious as she put her head in her hand while the tears kept flowing.
Azarenka appeared again, once again wrapping her arm around Kasatkina and consoling her. The 31-year-old knelt down in front of Kasatkina and offered her words of encouragement, then kissed her on the top of the head.
It was obvious Kasatkina was appreciative of the touching gesture, reaching out and grabbing Azarenka's hand while thanking her for her compassion.
To top it off, Azarenka even packed Kasatkina's bag for her.
"It's always a lovely thing, isn't it, to see the genuine camaraderie that exists between tennis players when one of them is hurt," a commentator said of the moving scenes.
"It's often in the worst situations that one sees the very finest advertisement for a sport like this.
"It's not the enduring image we expected of this match but it is a very powerful enduring image, isn't it?"
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Speaking after the match, Azarenka said: "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 this situation and pushes forward. I feel like she can. I wish her that.
"I offered her my help and my team's help if she needs it. I really hope she will recover, because she's been playing so beautifully, so smart on the court, putting me in very uncomfortable situations where I had to really push myself.
"It was really great battle out there. I was enjoying it a lot.
"It's hard to find the words. She was very gracious. She said that my comeback inspired her.
"I told her … just keep going, never think it's over.
"She's a strong girl, she has a big personality. I think she'll be fine."
Tennis commentator Jose Morgado said Azarenka's actions were "fabulous" and a "great gesture", while American sports writer Christopher Clarey tweeted it was "touching to see Azarenka comforting Kasatkina at length".
World No. 36 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova loved what she saw, writing "These 2" with clapping and love-heart eye emojis on social media.
Tennis writer Zenia D'Cunha said: "Heart breaks for Kasatkina but if there is one player who can talk to her & encourage from recent example, it's Vika."
Replying to a clip of Azarenka kissing Kasatkina, Hannah Wilks tweeted: "That's not how you socially distance in the COVID times but I don't care, it was such a sweet & spontaneous gesture from Vika."
Originally published as Tennis world reacts to star's classy kiss