US Open Line Judge’s Pep Talk With Nick Kyrgios Is Under Scrutiny

    Since John McEnroe and his violent outbursts, temper tantrums and classic verbal intercourse with line judges left the mens tennis scene in the late 90s, there hasnt been many players who can match McEnroe’s controversial energy. 

    Nick Kyrgios surely tries. Kyrgios hasnt had McEnroes success as a tennis icon, but hes always in the middle of an odd situation and isn’t afraid to lay into the judges. 

    Nick Kyrgios- “Are you OK?”| Australian Open 2016

    Australian Open Night 5 – Rod Laver Arena Men’s Singles – Round 3 N. Kyrgios vs. T. Berdych

    Ironically, on Thursday Kyrgios was the benefactor of an impartial line judge who took it upon himself to become a cheerleader and change the course of Kyrgios’ U.S. Open match against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.   

    Via usatoday.com, The wildly talented but often immature Kyrgios initially appeared dispassionately disinterested Thursday in his second-round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.

     Kyrgios was undeniably not giving his best effort he said as much and was trailing Herbert 6-4, 3-0 when a questionable event took place. It was at this point in the match that chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani stepped in or actually stepped down off his umpires chair to have a conversation with Kyrgios.

    Eric Hubbs on Twitter

    Never seen this before. Umpire had to get out of his chair and beg Nick Kyrgios to start trying in his match. https://t.co/nk9k56yTrB

    I think Nick was not playing, said Herbert, who lost the match 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-0. Had the feeling he was not giving 100 percent, not focused. For sure, from that point (Lahyani talked to him) something changed. He got better and better until the end.

    You never know what would have happened if Mohamed didnt go down off the chair and started talking to him, Herbert added.

    Mike Dickson on Twitter

    Appears that umpire Mohamed Layani is giving Nick Kyrgios a talking to as he trails PH Herbert 4-6 0-3, coming down from his chair to address him. “This isn’t you,” he says. Some 130 mph+ double faults from NK.

    In an attempt to avoid scandal and negative publicity, The US Open totally ignored the actual verbal exchange which was recorded and tried to smooth it over with a statement. 

    Ben Rothenberg on Twitter

    USOpen puts out a statement on Kyrgios-Lahyani with its official version of events… which doesn’t align all that well with what was audible on microphones and why it was an issue.

     Unfortunately, the tennis world saw what happened, so to lie about it makes the organization look worse. 

    I dont know if the line judge Mo Lahyani had money on the match or what, but Ive never seen a line judge come down from their high chair to implore an athlete to play better or express affections for one particular athlete in the middle of a match. Neither have some former tennis greats, who were outraged by the situation. 

    Eurosport on Twitter

    Mats Wilander had some strong words for the umpire after the incident in the @NickKyrgios match earlier today at the #USOpen. https://t.co/RqhgFBLkD7

    Kyrgios’ next opponent, the iconic Roger Federer said the umps’ actions crossed the line. 

    7 News Sydney on Twitter

    Some commentators have described it as a pep talk as the umpire left the chair and then counselled @NickKyrgios courtside. Rival players including Kyrgios’ next opponent @rogerfederer said it was unacceptable and it crossed a line. @MattCarmichael #7News https://t.co/UADAJnr2Et

    Herbert obviously wasnt happy with having to battle two opponents. 

    Uche Amako on Twitter

    Herbert accuses Lahyani of taking the role of a coach when he spoke to Kyrgios. “It is not his job”. Big problems for the #USOpen officials coming up

    Kyrgios, on the other hand, defended the line judge. He also downplayed the assist, sarcastically crediting his mental toughness for the comeback win. 

    Reem Abulleil on Twitter

    Kyrgios insists Lahyani wasn’t out of bounds and says he’d be upset if the umpire ends up getting sanctioned in some way. “”I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me. I’m not sure if that was encouragement.” https://t.co/4mAyX3Vdy9

    Known for his meltdowns in the past, Kyrgios was thrown a life preserver in this U.S. Open and he should be sending that line judge two cases of the most expensive champagne and a portion of his proceeds if he goes on to make serious noise in this major tournament. 

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.