Sept 18 (Reuters) - Victoria Azarenka moved into the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in Rome on Friday when her opponent Daria Kasatkina injured her ankle and retired, but not before the Belarusian comforted her and offered words of encouragement.
With the match evenly poised at 6-6 in the opening set, Kasatkina rolled her right ankle while chasing a ball in the tiebreak, with Azarenka immediately rushing to her side to offer assistance.
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.
"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.
"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 will next face ninth seed Garbine Muguruza, who beat Briton Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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