Roger Federer is pressing the mute button on future chair umpire chats with Nick Kyrgios.
The second-ranked Swiss, who will square off against Kyrgios in the US Open third round, disputed the motivational chat chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani had with Kyrgios today as unfair.
In the third game of the second set of Kyrgios’ US Open second-round win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Lahyani climbed down from the chair to check on Kyrgios’ condition—and encouraged the apathetic Aussie to exert more effort or he might need to take action.
After the match, Kyrgios dismissed the chat as much ado about nothing asserting Lahyani’s words had no impact on his performance.
“I’m not sure it was encouragement,” Kyrgios said. “He said he liked me. I’m not sure if that was encouragement. He just said that it’s not a good look.
“Look, I wasn’t feeling good. I know what I was doing out there wasn’t good. I wasn’t really listening to him, but I knew it wasn’t a good look. It didn’t help me at all. Like, I was down 5-2. If it was 3-0, and maybe if I would have come back and won six games in a row, fair enough. Didn’t help me at all.”
Lahyani, known as one of the more thorough and personable umpires in the game, was criticized by some on social media for over-stepping chair umpire duties.
ESPN analyst Darren Cahill, who coaches world No. 1 Simona Halep, said he would have been fuming if he was Herbert’s coach seeing Kyrgios receiving a pep talk from the chair.
Herbert called Lahyani “a really good umpire” and said “I think he cares for Nick…he cares for the show,” but said it is not the chair umpire’s job to motivate players.
“No, I don’t at all. I don’t think he has to go down and take the position of a coach, like you see on the WTA Tour,” Herbert said. “I don’t know yet if it would have changed something. I just know he doesn’t have to do that.”
Asked his reaction to the incident, Federer said flatly “it won’t happen again. I think everybody knows that.”
The five-time US Open champion said while Lahyani’s intentions were good, the chair umpire has no business engaging a player in discussion because “it’s a conversation. Conversations can change your mindset.”
“It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair,” Federer said. “But I get what he was trying to do. He 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. 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.”
US Open tournament referee Brian Earley said in a statement Lahyani 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… At the next changeover, Kyrgios down 1-4, received treatment from the physio.”
The US Open did not announce any sanctions against Lahyani. Kygrios, who was once fined for lack of effort in Shanghai, said the veteran chair umpire should not be sanctioned.
“I don’t believe that he deserves it,” Kyrgios said. “I mean, the umpire in Shanghai didn’t cop any backlash. It happened to me in Cincinnati two weeks ago against 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. I’d be disappointed, yeah, for sure.”