NEW YORK -- Nick Kyrgios was caught in the middle of another controversy, this time during his third-round match against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Kyrgios, down 6-4, 3-0, was hardly reacting to serves and looked lackadaisical with his returns. During a changeover, chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani got out of his chair, walked to Kyrgios and gave him what appeared to be a minute-long pep talk.
During his postmatch news conference, Kyrgios said he wasn't being coached by Layhani. He said Layhani told him, "This does not look good for the integrity of the sport," and that this exact same thing has happened to him in the past in Shanghai and two weeks ago in Cincinnati. He said he would be disappointed if Lahyani was sanctioned for his actions (which he was not).
Twitter had a field day with this surreal situation.
The WTA's Donna Vekic was not happy with what she saw.
Didn't know umpires were allowed to give pep talks .. �� https://t.co/82k0cQvwZM
- Donna Vekic (@DonnaVekic) August 30, 2018
After the match, Kyrgios immediately responded to Vekic's tweet with one of his own. Kyrgios would later take it down:
Kyrgios amended his response later:
I shouldn't have tweeted so quickly after the match. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I can assure you it wasn't coaching. https://t.co/hvlwPyzC0E
- Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) August 30, 2018
As much as Kyrgios tried to diffuse the incident, the controversial question lingered: Did Lahyani cross the line from impartial judge to cheerleader or life coach or whatever you want to call it?
So first off Layhani is a good man who genuinely cares about people. I really like him as a human..... he did something he shouldn't have. 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 https://t.co/lwU63jVS3I
- andyroddick (@andyroddick) August 30, 2018
This has got to stop. It's just wrong and brings the game into disrepute.
Umpire Lahyani is a great guy and a fine official but there is no way he should have come down from the chair to speak with Kyrgios. If he is self destructing it is not the umpire's job to calm him down. https://t.co/LtjZ0oV0rz
- Andrew Castle (@AndrewCastle63) August 30, 2018
This Kyrgios-chair umpire pep talk story is one of the more bizarre you'll come across in sport. When does a ref/umpire do such a thing!?
- Joe Barton (@joebarto) August 30, 2018
New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg pointed out Lahyani has done this in the past.
Lahyani has done similar things before, trying to pep up players who seem down in the dumps...which is absolutely not something a referee in any sport should be doing.
- Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 30, 2018
When asked about it, Kyrgios' next opponent, world No. 2 Roger Federer, had a strident response:
We, of course. can't forget about Kyrgios' opponent. Here's what he had to say:
- PH Herbert (@p2hugz) August 30, 2018