You never quite know what you are going to get with Nick Kyrgios and the controversial Australian broke new boundaries here on Thursday at the US Open when he beat France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 after receiving a pep talk from the umpire.
Kyrgios was a set and 3-0 down in the second-round match and showing an apparent lack of effort when Mohamed Lahyani, the umpire, got out of his chair at a changeover to talk to him. Lahyani, who is Swedish, appeared to encourage the world No 30 to pick up his game and told him: “I want to help you. I know this is not you.”
Considering that players are not allowed to receive on-court coaching, the umpire’s behaviour was immediately called into question. One report suggested that the United States Tennis Association was already looking into the incident.
Lahyani’s words of encouragement seemed to do the trick. Kyrgios saw the trainer at the next changeover but said there was nothing wrong and sent him away with a pat on the back.
Kyrgios went on to level the second set at 5-5 and then won the tie-break 8-6. The Australian eased through the next two sets for the loss of only three games and eventually completed his victory after two hours and 47 minutes.
“He was just concerned about how I was playing,” Kyrgios said afterwards when he was asked about Lahyani’s intervention. “He was like: ‘Nick, are you OK?’ I was like: ‘Yeah, everything’s actually fine.’ I just wasn’t feeling great.”
Kyrgios added: “He [Herbert] let me back in the second set. He probably should have served the second set out. I just kept staying out there. I had no other choice really. I got pretty lucky in the second set, but my level raised a lot.”