By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The Swedish chair umpire who gave a pep talk to Australian Nick Kyrgios during a U.S. Open match this year has been suspended without pay for two weeks, the ATP Tour said on Tuesday.
Mohamed Lahyani got down from his chair to offer some words of encouragement to Kyrgios, who was a set and a break down to Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert during a second-round clash in New York nearly three weeks ago.
The Swede gestured and pleaded with Kyrgios — a player who has been fined by the ATP in the past for lack of best efforts — telling him “I want to help you” and “I’ve seen your matches: you’re great for tennis … I know this is not you.”
Kyrgios’s level of play rose dramatically after the bizarre incident and went on to win the match in four sets.
An internal ATP review decided Lahyani’s actions were deemed to have compromised the impartiality required of an official.
“Mohamed is a world-class and highly-respected official. However, his actions during the match crossed a line that compromised his own impartiality as a chair umpire,” Gayle David Bradshaw, the ATP’s Executive Vice President of Rules & Competition, said 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.”
Lahyani, who was next scheduled to work at the China Open and Shanghai Masters, will return to the umpire’s chair during the Oct. 15-21 Stockholm Open.
While the incident took place at a tournament that falls under the jurisdiction of the United States Tennis Association, it was still subject to ATP disciplinary action due to Lahyani’s position as full-time ATP employee.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ken Ferris)