Nick Kyrgios’ next US Open opponent has blasted the tournament chair umpire whose pep talk spurred the Aussie tennis star to victory and says he won’t tolerate a repeat when the pair face off.
World number two Roger Federer joined a chorus of past and modern tennis greats who have slammed the extraordinary mid-match pep talk that fired Kyrgios into a US Open third-round blockbuster against him in New York on Saturday for a spot in the final 16.
Swedish official Mohamed Lahyani is under fire for his unprecedented intervention, after Kyrgios pulled off a drama-charged comeback win over Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Flushing Meadows.
‘It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair,’ Federer said after his own second round win.
Roger Federer (pictured in action on Thursday) will take on Nick Kyrgios in the third round of the US Open
‘I get what he was trying to do. He behaves the way he behaves and then you decide if you like it or you don’t like it. I don’t know what he said, I don’t care what he said. It was not just about how you’re feeling, “Oh, I am not feeling well”.’
The five-time US champion believed the chair umpire spent too much time with Kyrgios and he declared it wouldn’t happen in their upcoming match.
‘That’s why it won’t happen again and everybody knows that,’ Federer said.
‘It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair. You don’t go and speak like that.’
The 20-time grand slam champion also retweeted a post from former star Andy Roddick, who called for critics to go easy on the umpire.
An extraordinary mid-match pep talk from the chair umpire has fired Nick Kyrgios into a likely US Open third-round blockbuster with Roger Federer
‘Layhani is a good man who genuinely cares about people. I really like him as a human….. he did something he shouldn’t have,’ Roddick wrote on Twitter.
‘This is behavior we should see more of these days. Unfortunately it was the wrong time/place for it. Selfishly I hope they go easy on him.’
Four-time US Open champion John McEnroe was also among the minority who supported Layhani but chastised Kyrgios.
Former tennis star Andy Roddick took to Twitter to call on critics to go easy on the chair umpire
‘I’m here to do something I’ve never done in 40 years in tennis, I’m going to defend this umpire,’ McEnroe said on ESPN.
‘I think the fact that Nick Kyrgios was out there playing and not competing, and wasn’t playing hard, Mohamed Lahyani got down off his chair, which I’ve never seen and actually tried to push him.’
Roger Federer (pictured) believes opponent Nick Kyrgios won’t get special treatment in their US Open showdown at Flushing Meadows. ‘That’s why it won’t happen again,’ Federer said
Other tennis greats weren’t so supportive.
‘Kyrgios getting a pep talk from likable umpire Lahyani was wrong on so many levels. This isn’t a junior tournament. Integrity Unit will be looking at this. Sorry to say but he really should resign his position immediately,’ Australian legend Pat Cash tweeted.
Swedish legend Mats Wilander added: ‘I would say that is against the rules. The umpire should have given Nick Kyrgios a warning for unsportsmanlike behaviour because he’s not trying and it’s bad for the sport but in no chance can the chair umpire go down and have a sort of psychology session with one of the players.’
Kyrgios was trailing 3-0 in the second set when Lahyani left his chair to beg the Australian to start trying for the sake of the paying crowd – and to avoid being sanctioned for not giving his best effort.
‘I want to help you,’ Lahyani repeated. ‘I’ve seen your matches: You’re great for tennis. Nick, I know this is not you.’
The Australian (pictured with Ajla Tomljanovic) trailing 3-0 in the second set when Lahyani left his chair to beg the Australian to start trying
Seeking some sort of physical treatment, Kyrgios said: ‘OK, just call the trainer to the court and I’ll try.’
But when the trainer arrived and asked what Kyrgios needed treatment for, the Australian said: ‘I don’t know, check my wrist or something… Can you just stay out here for like two minutes?’
The umpire’s controversial ‘coaching’ was savaged on social media, with fans furious about his perceived bias towards Kyrgios and claiming it was unfair on Herbert.
Former leading Australian umpire and one-time head of ASADA Richard Ings even weighed in.
‘I want to help you. I want to help you,’ Lahyani said. ‘I’ve seen your matches: You’re great for tennis. Nick, I know this is not you.’
Seeking some sort of physical treatment, Kyrgios said: ‘OK, just call the trainer to the court and I’ll try’
The umpire’s controversial ‘coaching’ was savaged on social media by fans and tennis greats
‘I am wracking my brain to think of a situation requiring a chair umpire to speak like that to one player. I umpired thousands of matches. I was ATP head of officiating. I can’t think of one,’ Ings tweeted.
The USTA, already under siege over a succession of rules blunders this grand slam, was also understood to be unimpressed with Lahyani’s conduct and are investigating the incident.
But it certainly seemed to work for Kyrgios, who hauled himself back into the contest having looked utterly disinterested in the early stages.
Yawning one second, Kyrgios delivered a return winner the next to break Herbert to get back on serve at 4-5 in the second set before offering a subdued fist pump towards his box.
Kyrgios (pictured with Ajla Tomljanovic) received an extraordinary mid-match pep talk from the umpire
Fans were furious about the umpire’s perceived bias towards Kyrgios and claiming it was unfair on Herbert
He clinched the tiebreaker to draw level and then break Herbert early in the third set to take command.
Totally revitalised, Kyrgios dropped just three games in the final two sets, sealing victory after two hours and 47 minutes.
Asked what the umpire was saying to him when he trailed by a set and a break, Kyrgios said: ‘He was just concerned about how I was playing, like, ”Nick are you OK?”
‘He (Herbert) let me back into that set. He should have just served it out. I stayed out here in the second set. I had no real choice.’
STATEMENT FROM THE US OPEN TOURNAMENT REFEREE
After the third game of the second set in the Kyrgios-Herbert match on Court 17, with Kyrgios down 0-3, Chair Umpire Mohamed Lahyani left his chair to check on the condition of Nick Kyrgios.
He came out of the chair because of the noise level in the stadium during the changeover to make sure he could communicate effectively with Kyrgios.
Lahyani was concerned that Kyrgios might need medical attention. Lahyani told Kyrgios that if he was feeling ill, that the tournament could provide medical help.
He also informed Kyrgios that if his seeming lack of interest in the match continued, that as the chair umpire, he would need to take action. He again suggested to Kyrgios that he could receive medical attention.
At the next changeover, Kyrgios down 1-4, received treatment from the physio.
His defeated opponent was fuming after the match.
‘Nick from his side is not to blame as he did not ask for anything. But his behaviour and motivation on court changed after this moment and then he dominated the match,’ Herbert said.
‘After seeing the video I am angry against the umpire. He should not go down off his chair and reason with Nick.
‘I am even more upset against the statement of the USTA that is clearly taking us for fools.’
Kyrgios insisted Lahyani’s talking to wasn’t the spark for his fightback and said he’d be upset if the respected official was sanctioned in any way.
‘It’s happened in Shanghai before when we all know I had that moment in Shanghai where the referee said the same thing: ”It’s not good for the integrity of the sport, doesn’t have a good look”,’ Kyrgios said.
‘It happens in other sports, too. In soccer, if someone is being roughed, they get warned: ”If you keep doing this, you get penalised”. Same sort of thing.
‘It had no effect at all. I was 3-love down, (then) 5-2 down. Obviously, didn’t help at all.’
Swedish official Mohamed Lahyani is under fire for his unprecedented intervention
Federer was also playing a Frenchman, Benoit Paire, in his second-round match on Thursday. The Swiss legend was asked about the umpire’s action in the Kyrgios match.
‘It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair. But I get what he was trying to do. He (Kyrgios) behaves the way he behaves,’ he said.
It came after Kyrgios huffed and puffed his way into the second round of the US Open
‘As an umpire take a decision on the chair, do you like it or don’t you like it. But you don’t go and speak like that, in my opinion.
‘I don’t know what he said. I don’t care what he said. It was not just about, ”How are you feeling?” ”Oh, I’m not feeling so well. Go back up to the chair.” He was there for too long.
‘It’s a conversation. Conversations can change your mindset. It can be a physio, a doctor, an umpire for that matter. That’s why it won’t happen again. I think everybody knows that.’
The controversy comes after Kyrgios spent much of his first round match against Moldovan Radu Albot complaining of fatigue as temperatures soared to 35C.
At one point he turned to his supporter’s box and said: ‘I’m f***ed, my legs are f***ed. I’m cooked, I’m f***ing done. I can’t play.’
He was also spotted casually singing along to Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Fly Away’ as the tune was played at the Louis Armstrong Stadium during the end of the second set.
Kyrgios later said his bizarre on-court antics ‘keep [him] relaxed’.
He pulled through to take the first-round match in four sets, before revealing his next move.
‘I knew it was going tough match. I’m just happy I got through it… But right now I just want to get something to eat. I’m hungry,’ Kyrgios said.
During his first round match, hetuned to his supporter’s box and said: ‘I’m f***ed, my legs are f***ed. I’m cooked, I’m f***ing done. I can’t play’
Kyrgios was involved in another bizarre exchange with a chair umpire in July, when he was embarrassingly taught a lesson in the basics of tennis by James Keothavong at Wimbledon.
The Australian engaged Keothavong in a conversation during his clash with Robin Haase, which saw the exasperated umpire getting down from his chair to illustrate the foot fault rule.
Keothavong stood with his feet behind the doubles tramline near his chair to explain.
He drew an imaginary extension of the centre mark and put his back foot the other side of the court, which is against the rules.
During his first round match, Kyrgios (with Ajla Tomljanovic) was also spotted singing along to Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Fly Away’ as the tune was played at the Louis Armstrong Stadium
Kyrgios was involved in another bizarre exchange with a chair umpire in July, when he was embarrassingly taught a lesson in the basics of tennis by James Keothavong at Wimbledon
Kyrgios watched and listened as Keothavong demonstrated the foot fault.
At the Australian Open in January, Kyrgios was pulled up on two foot faults against Grigor Dimitrov.
He was judged to have broken the same rule by dragging his back foot across the centre mark.
‘I haven’t been called for a foot fault in three years,’ Kyrgios told the umpire. ‘It’s not possible man, it’s not possible.’