The headlines created by a bizarre exchange in Nick Kyrgios' second round match at the US Open got even weirder when tournament officials decided to chime in — and promptly became the laughing stock of the tennis world.
The Aussie defeated Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, but only after a strange intervention from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani. Down a set and behind 0-3 in the second, Lahyani gave Kyrgios some words of encouragement and his pep talk did the trick.
"I want to help you. I want to help you," Lahyani said. "I've seen your matches: you're great for tennis.
"Nick, I know this is not you."
The wild child came back to take the set and win the match 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-0 and tennis players, media and commentators went into meltdown at the umpire for overstepping his boundaries.
But the controversy didn't end there.
The US Open put out an official statement on the matter, but all it did was describe what took place — only, not very accurately. While people called for Lahyani to be yanked immediately from the match, the statement refused to address whether the umpire was in the wrong or what would happen next to address the matter.
The statement didn't appear to take into account what was heard by TV viewers and made no mention of Lahyani encouraging Kyrgios — anomalies which mystified the tennis world.
The United States Tennis Association later said an investigation into Lahyani's conduct was ongoing but if Kyrgios had his way nothing would come of it. The Canberra product defended the situation after the match, saying although he was aware it "wasn't a good look", in no way was the umpire trying to coach him.
"I know what I was doing wasn't good," Kyrgios said. "It didn't help me at all, it's so ridiculous. He wasn't coaching me at all. I don't have a coach, I haven't had a coach for years. Of course he wasn't coaching me.
"What are you talking about?
"It happens in other sports, too. In soccer, if someone is being roughed, they get warned. If you keep doing this you get penalised. Same sort of thing. It had not effect at all.
"I'm not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me. I'm not sure if that was encouragement. He just said that it's not a good look. Look. I wasn't feeling good. I know what I was doing out there wasn't good. I wasn't really listening to him."
But Herbert didn't side with his opponent and was in no doubt the umpire went too far.
"The umpire doesn't need to talk to him. This was not his job," Herbert said. "He's not a coach, he's an umpire and he should stay in his chair for that.
"They can tell him from the chair. He doesn't need to go down. He doesn't need to say the words he said on the video. I think this was not his job.
"I don't think he has to go down and take the position of a coach like you can see on the WTA Tour.
"It's not his job."
Herbert continued to vent, later releasing a statement where he demanded an explanation. He said he didn't blame Kyrgios and instead cut loose at the umpire and the USTA for how it handled the matter.
"After seeing the video I am angry against the umpire," Herbert said. "He should not go down of his chair and try to reason (with) Nick.
"Did this action 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. (To) Err is human but I still wait for explanations."
Kyrgios's round three opponent Roger Federer also weighed in on the controversy, saying Lahyani was out of line.
"It's not the umpire's role to go down from the chair," Federer said. "I get what he was trying to do. He behaves the way he behaves and then you decide if you like it or you don't like it.
"But you don't go speak like that.
"I don't know what he said, I don't care what he said. It was not just about how you're feeling, 'Oh, I am not feeling well.'
"He was down there for too long. It was a conversation and conversations change mindsets.
"That's why it won't happen again and everybody knows that.
"It's not the umpire's role to go down from the chair. You don't go and speak like that."
Tennis legend John McEnroe, who is commentating at the grand slam for ESPN, entered the conversation and was one of the few to defend Lahyani for trying to enhance the image of the sport.
The famous hothead said Kyrgios's effort in the opening set-and-a-half was "pathetic" and called it a "black eye" for the sport, saying although he likes the Aussie star, he was happy the umpire stepped in.
"I'm going to do something I've never done in 40 years ... I'm going to defend an umpire," McEnroe said. "He did it for the right reasons.
"In this particular case he was trying to do something good for the sport."
Federer confirmed a Sunday (AEST) showstopper with Kyrgios at Arthur Ashe Stadium with a 7-5 6-4 6-4 win over another Frenchman, Benoit Paire.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Kyrgios said. "I definitely know that I won't be the favourite, the crowd favourite here.
"I go into that match with zero expectation. I do believe I can beat him. I have done it before."
Admitting he won't be the crowd favourite, there's every chance Kyrgios will have to put up with hecklers — like he did against Herbert.
The 23-year-old was reportedly targeted by a fan who wanted him to "just leave" because female star Eugenie Bouchard was next up on court 17.
It led to this exchange, which Sports Illustrated's Daniel Rapaport described as "surreal".
Kyrgios said he loves the interaction with fans, even when they're against him.
"I love it. I love it. You know, when I was up 40-0 at the end, I put my ear to the crowd, just want to hear them boo again. I loved it," he said.