Nick Kyrgios, trouble-on-the-horizon personified, will play Roger Federer Saturday in a third-round U.S. Open match that may best be watched peeking through fingers covering one’s eyes.
Kyrgios, the thoroughly unpredictable 23-year-old Australian, is the No. 30 seed and Federer — 20 times a major-tournament champion — is No 2. But Kyrgios is a potential problem for Federer based on their three previous matches. Federer won two of those, but of the nine sets they contested, eight went to tiebreaks.
Beyond the straight tennis, of course, is the matter of Kyrgios’ often bizarre deportment, which is no walk in the park for tennis officials, either.
Early Friday, the Open issued a statement acknowledging that umpire Mohamed Lahyani had gone “beyond protocol” when he left his chair to urge more effort from Kyrgios against Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Thursday. Kyrgios, down 4-6, 0-3 at the time, then rallied to win in four sets.
Kyrgios denied that Lahyani had been of any assistance and Open officials originally defended his leaving the chair to be heard over crowd noise and out of concern that Kyrgios might need medical attention.
Friday’s statement said there had been a “comprehensive review” of the situation and that Lahyani “was advised to adhere to proper protocols.” Lahyani will continue to officiate at the tournament but “his performance will continue to be evaluated.”
Federer, asked late Thursday if he thought an umpire might descend from the chair on Saturday to assure Kyrgios’ best effort against him, said flatly, “That won’t happen.”