The US Open organisers were forced to issue a clarification after Roger Federer blasted the chair umpire officiating the match between Nick Krygios and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Flushing Meadows.
Criticised over the umpire allegedly trying to pep Krygios up during his US Open second round match against Herbert, US Open said in a press release that Mohamed Lahyani was only trying to check on the health of the player.
They also said the umpire was warning Kyrgios over his seemingly non-interest in the match which would force him to take action against the player.
US Open Statement from US Open Tournament Referee on the Nick Kyrgios vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert Match pic.twitter.com/UHKPhVeYIb
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 30, 2018
Controversy reigned during Kyrgios’ second round match against Herbert when the chair umpire was seen trying to pep the Aussie. He went down his chair and was heard saying: ‘I want to help you. I want to help you… You’re great for tennis.’
Kyrgios went on to wrap up the match after that, winning in four sets after having lost the opener.
Federer’s anger at his press conference was directed at the umpire trying to help a player who looked like he had thrown in the towel yet again, an act that is usually left to the coaching staff during team tournaments like the Davis Cup.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion said:
“It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair. 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”.”
Former Grand Slam winner Andy Roddick also tweeted about the event and said while Layhani is known to be one who genuinely worries about players on the circuit, he had made a mistake there.
John McEnroe, himself at the receiving end of many a point penalties in his playing career and rarely in the good books of any chair umpire, chose to defend Layhani too.
He said on ESPN:
“I’m here to do something I’ve never done in 40 years in tennis, I’m going to defend this umpire. 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.”
However, the likes of Pat Cash and Mats Wilander panned the umpire’s decision to try and get Kyrgios going.
Richard Ings, a former Australian umpire and head of ASADA said he was trying to remember when was the last time such a thing had happened and couldn’t remember any precedence.
Interestingly, Kyrgios asked the chair umpire to call the trainer to the court but when the trainer did come on, the player had no physical ailment and asked him to remain on the court for a couple of minutes.
Later, Kyrgios’ opponent in the match, PH Herbert, also slammed the umpire’s call but more so, the decision of the US Open to not sanction the umpire for it. He tweeted:
— PH Herbert (@p2hugz) August 30, 2018
Federer will take on Kyrgios in round three of the competition, which will be their fourth meeting. Federer is 2-1 on head to head, having lost once to him on clay at the 2015 Madrid Masters.