Pierre-Hugues Herbert has launched a stinging attack against chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani and the United States Tennis Association, following the controversy in his US Open second-round defeat by Nick Kyrgios.
The Australian looked to be heading out of the tournament after losing the first set and trailing 3-0 in the second, but Lahyani stepped down from his chair and spoke to the 23-year-old about his performance up to that point.
A video of the incident revealed Lahyani to say to Kyrgios “I want to help you, I know this is not you,” and the intervention appeared to kick him back into life as he fought back to win the second set before powering through the third and fourth set to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Players are not allowed to receive on-court coaching during matches, but the USTA issued a statement to claim that Lahyani was simply checking on Kyrgios’ condition and offering him help in terms of seeing the trainer or a doctor if he was feeling unwell.
But that explanation has gone down badly with Herbert, who accused the USTA of taking the players for “fools” with their statement and said that he was “angry” with Lahyani’s actions.
“After my loss in the second round of the US Open against Nick Kyrgios and the controversy that followed I feel like I needed to give my point of view,” he said in a statement on Thursday night.
“First of all I did not hear the discussion between Lahyani and Nick and it did not affect me at all.
“Nick from his side is not to blame as he did not ask for anything. But his behaviour and motivation on court changed from this moment and then he dominated the match.
“On the other hand after seeing the video I am angry against the umpire. He should not go down [from] his chair and try to reason Nick. Did this affect the game? We will never know...
“I am even more upset against the statement of the USTA that is clearly taking us for fools.
“We all hear on the video what the umpire said to Nick overpassing his functions. Everyone is human but I still wait for explanations.
“When we players are making mistakes on court we are sanctioned.”
Herbert was responding to the USTA statement that attempted to explain the decision, although US Open officials are still looking into the matter with the tournament director, tournament referee and chief umpire reviewing the incident.
“After the third game of the second set in the Kyrgios-Herbert match on Court 17, with Kyrgios down 0-3, Chair Umpire Mohamed Lahyani, left his chair to check on the condition of Nick Kyrgios,” a USTA statement read.
“He came out of the chair because of the noise level in the stadium during the changeover to make sure he could communicate effectively with Kyrgios.
“Lahyani was concerned that Kyrgios might need medical attention. Lahyani told Kyrgios that if he was feeling ill, that the tournament could provide medical help. He also informed Kyrgios that if his seeming lack of interest in the match continued, that as the chair umpire, he would need to take action. He again suggested to Kyrgios that he could receive medical attention.
“At the next changeover, Kyrgios down 1-4, [he] received treatment from the physio.”
Having secured his place in the third round, Kyrgios will face second seed Roger Federer on Saturday.
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