Umpire Mohamed Lahyani has been suspended from his next two scheduled tournaments for trying to encourage Nick Kyrgios during a match at the US Open.
Lahyani took the unusual step of climbing down from his chair and having a lengthy chat with the Australian during the second-round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, when Kyrgios was showing little effort as he trailed by a set and 3-0 down.
The umpire was heard to say: “I want to help you. You are great for tennis. I know this is not you.”
Kyrgios went on to turn the match around to progress, with an annoyed Herbert claiming afterwards he felt Lahyani had overstepped the mark – sentiments also backed up by the likes of Roger Federer.
US Open officials decided while Lahyani “went beyond protocol” in his actions, the umpire was allowed to continue in the chair for the rest of the tournament but stressed he should “adhere to proper protocols”.
However, governing body ATP has now conducted its own internal review, and confirmed in a statement Lahyani, one of seven full-time umpires on the tour, had been suspended from the next two scheduled events – the China Open in Beijing and the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
“Lahyani’s actions in the match were deemed to have compromised the impartiality that is required of an official. Lahyani will return to work at the Intrum Stockholm Open in October,” a statement read.
“Despite the incident taking place at the US Open, under the jurisdiction of the United States Tennis Association, the incident was still subject to ATP disciplinary action due to Lahyani’s position as a full-time ATP employee and the high standards the ATP requires of its chair umpires regardless of the event to which he or she is assigned, in order to maintain the integrity of the tour.”
ATP executive vice president of rules and competition Gayle David Bradshaw described Lahyani as a “world-class and highly-respected official”, but stressed “his actions during the match crossed a line that compromised his own impartiality as a chair umpire”.
Bradshaw continued in a statement: “Although well-intended, his actions were regrettable and cannot go without disciplinary action on our own tour.
“We know that he will learn from this experience and we look forward to welcoming him back in October.”
Speaking at the time of the controversial incident at Flushing Meadows, Kyrgios – who has been penalised for a lack of best effort in the past – insisted the brief pep talk had little effect.
“I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me. He just said that it’s not a good look,” the Australian said.
“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.”
It was the first of two major incidents involving umpires at the US Open, with Serena Williams handed a game penalty after a tirade against match official Carlos Ramos in the women’s final.