Chair umpire ‘coaches’ Nick Krygios back to win at U.S. Open tennis tournament

Nick Kyrgios of Australia talks to himself during a match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France during the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday in New York. (AP photo)

NEW YORK — Nick Kyrgios was losing big at the U.S. Open on Thursday, and barely even trying. Didn’t move while so-so serves flew by for aces. Casually put groundstrokes into the net. Double-faulted without caring.

The crowd began booing. The chair umpire, Mohamed Lahyani, decided to intervene. In an unusual sight for Grand Slam tennis, Lahyani clambered down out of his seat during a break between games, stood with hands on knees, and spoke with the 30th-seeded Kyrgios, saying, among other things, “I want to help you.”

It all seemed like an impromptu intervention for the mercurial Kyrgios, right out there on Court 17 at Flushing Meadows, and it raised questions about whether Lahyani overstepped his duties as someone who’s primarily there to keep score and keep order. Kyrgios went from trailing by a set and a break at the time to wresting control of the match — setting up a third-round showdown against Roger Federer — by coming back to beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-0.

“This was not his job,” Herbert said, adding that he thinks Lahyani should be sanctioned in some way. “I don’t think he’s a coach, he’s an umpire, and he should stay on his chair for that.”

The U.S. Open’s referee and chief umpire were reviewing what happened, as was the Grand Slam Board. Chair umpires are never made available to the media, but tournament referee Brian Earley said Lahyani explained that he left his perch “to make sure he could communicate effectively” with Kyrgios in a noisy arena.

Kyrgios, a 23-year-old Australian, has run into trouble in the past for not giving his all during matches, even drawing a fine and suspension in 2016.