Tennis legend Roger Federer wasn’t his usual self as he bowed out of the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals.
Wherever Nick Kyrgios goes, controversy is not far behind.
According to the International Tennis Federation, the chair umpire is ‘much more than just a person who sits in a high chair and announces the score’.
Well it seems fan favourite chair umpire Mo Lahyani took this rather too literally.
Kyrgios, who sometimes resembles Kevin the Teenager played by comedian Harry Enfield, looked down and out in his second round US Open match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Thursday.
The 23-year-old was a set and 3-0 down to the Frenchman.
It appeared as if Kyrgios was doing his best Bernard Tomic the tank engine impression, as he seemed to not be completely dialled in, putting it lightly, when Herbert fired down serves at him.
But when it seemed all hope was lost, just like it was for King Theoden at the Battle of Helms Deep in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, I mean Lahyani, got down from his chair and appeared like a guardian angel to come to the woebegone Aussie’s rescue.
This, tennis fans, is not a common occurrence. This is history in the making.
At the changeover, Lahyani was heard offering words of comfort and encouragement such as: ‘I want to help you,’ and ‘I’ve seen your matches: you’re great for tennis,’ and finally, ‘I can see that – I know this is not you.’
Let us refer back to the ITF’s take on what a chair umpire can and cannot do.
“They are the guardians of the Rules of Tennis and enforce them to ensure a match is played in a spirit of fair play.
“Umpires are impartial and cannot be prejudiced.”
After looking into this, I could not find anywhere where it says an umpire can give a pep talk to help a languishing player.
It says ‘cannot be prejudiced’.
One could argue Lahyani was far from impartial here.
If you were to go a step further, one might suggest Lahyani was acting in a prejudicial way against Herbert.
As far as motivational talks go, this proved to be inspirational. Al Pacino from Any Given Sunday could learn from this.
From a position where Kyrgios looked like he was thinking about how he should best pack his suitcase; the Australian went onto win 19 of the next 25 games. From 4-6 0-3 to 4-6 7-6 6-3 6-0.
Did he want to see Kyrgios play against Federer in what could be an absolute classic?
I mean, every single match they have played have been absolute corkers. I would certainly love to see them duke it out on the grand slam stage for the first time.
But this is not the role of an ‘impartial’ umpire.
He should not be acting in this sort of manner. What he said about Kyrgios is true but it is not his job to say it.
His job is to be one of the ‘guardians of the rules of tennis’ and to ‘enforce them to ensure a match is played in the spirit of fair play’.
It would be fascinating to hear what Herbert has to say about this.
He should quite rightly feel aggrieved. He was well on his way towards the third round and a shot at taking out the 20-time grand slam winner.
Instead, he is out of the tournament and will be thinking what might have been.
Kyrgios later said: “He was concerned about how I was playing, like: ‘Nick, are you OK?’ I said everything was fine, I just wasn’t feeling great. He [Herbert] let me back into the second set really.
“I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me. He just said that it’s not a good 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.”
Well Nick, I am not sure I agree with that one.