NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios, who rarely listens to anyone, appeared to take some advice to try harder from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani as he rallied to beat Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and reach the U.S. Open third round on Thursday.
In a bizarre scene that caused an instant stir on social media, Lahyani got off his chair with Kyrgios down a set and trailing 3-0 in the second to give the Australian a pep talk.
For almost a minute the animated Lahyani gestured and pleaded with the stone-faced Kyrgios and the Swedish umpire could be heard telling him: ‘I’m trying to help you”.
Although Kyrgios dropped the opening set his level of play and interest rose dramatically after the pep talk and he swept the next three sets for a 4-6 7-6(6) 6-3 6-0 win.
Kyrgios shrugged off the entire episode as nothing new but the sight of an umpire offering unsolicited advice was uncomfortable enough that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) decided to investigate the incident.
“It’s happened in Shanghai. 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’,” said Kyrgios. “It happens in other sports, too.”
The USTA later issued a statement saying there was no reason to take action against the umpire, explaining that Lahyani came down because of the noise level in the stadium and was simply concerned Kyrgios might have needed medical attention.
He also informed Kyrgios that if his seeming lack of interest in the match continued, as the chair umpire he would need to take action.
“The umpire in Shanghai didn’t cop any backlash,” said Kyrgios. “It happened to me in Cincinnati two weeks ago against (Juan Martin) Del Potro, the exact same thing happened. I wasn’t putting forth my best performance.
“I did the same today. The umpire was like, ‘Nick, you can’t be doing this. It’s a bad look’. Same thing happened there.”
The enigmatic Australian, viewed as one of the sport’s great talents who has yet to fulfil his potential, looked set to produce another lacklustre effort as he stayed cemented to the baseline, barely flinching as Herbert served for a 3-0 lead.
It was then that Lahyani climbed down from his chair at the changeover and advised Kyrgios to show more interest.
While the contest turned in Kyrgios’s favour after the chat the 30th seed said the talk had nothing to do with the outcome.
“I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me,” Kyrgios, who next plays Roger Federer, said with a laugh. “He just said that it’s not a good look.
“I know what I was doing out there wasn’t good. I wasn’t really listening to him (Lahyani). Didn’t help me at all.”
After Federer beat Frenchman Benoit Paire 7-5 6-4 6-4 he 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. You 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,” said the second-seeded Swiss.
“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.”
Editing by Ken Ferris