As reported exclusively by the New York Times Tuesday, veteran umpire Mohamed Layhani has been suspended for two weeks by the ATP Tour.
And the suspension is without pay.
The ATP is Lahyani’s main employer, just as the WTA is the principal employer of its five full-time umpires.
The umpires on both tours have crossover to the Grand Slam events, which are run under the aegis of the International Tennis Federation.
(The ITF has its own staff of full-time umpires).
And so, while the well-documented incident involving Nick Kyrgios didn’t happen on the ATP’s watch, they made that decision to “protect the integrity of the Tour”, per the Times.
Not the first rodeo for Lahyani
If the suspension seems harsh, it may be because the Swedish umpire has priors. He has gotten personally involved with players who were struggling on court on previous occasions.
In 2011, Lahyani gave a heartfelt pep talk to a struggling Gaël Monfils during a match in Valencia.
And in 2016, he offered similar advice to another underachieving talent, Bernard Tomic.
In both cases, Lahyani didn’t get down from his chair. But the actions were otherwise very similar.
Did Lahyani’s bosses at the ATP sit him down after either of those incidents and tell him he had overstepped his job description? If they did not, perhaps Lahyani felt they were okay with it by default. To take that one step further, perhaps he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
If they did talk to him, and he disregarded that and decided to go rogue in his quest to help Kyrgios? The suspension would be more than deserved.
Asked about this very thing, ATP executive vice-president, rules and competition Gayle Bradshaw responded to tennis.life via email:
“We constantly communicate with our officials after each match. The decision made regarding Mohamed’s actions in the Kyrgios vs. Herbert (match) was based solely on the chair umpire actions in that match.”
Umpires in the spotlight
The Kyrgios situation has often been juxtaposed with the situation involving Serena Williams and ITF chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the women’s singles final.
It’s been used as a comparison. How Williams, a woman, was treated by Ramos as he enforced the rules. And before that, how deferential Lahyani was to Kyrgios, a male player who often acts up on court.
So perhaps the suspension is part of an overall strategy on the umpiring side to dispel that notion, by coming down on Lahyani for those actions.
Imagine that – the alphabet soup of tennis cooperating on something?
Nah, never mind.