Egypt's tennis player Mohamed Safwat
Mohamed Safwat believes he had set a new standard for Egyptian tennis after becoming the first player in the country to reach the Australian Open's main draw since 1978.
Egypt needed more than four decades after Ismail El-Shafie qualified for the Grand Slam tournament's main draw to reach that stage again after Safwat defeated India's Sumit Nagal and Frenchman Alexandre Muller in the first and second round respectively.
"Of course, it is a great feeling. It also gives me lots of experiences. I am sure that it will boost my game and confidence for the Olympic Games and after," Safwat told Ahram Online in an interview.
"Setting a new standard for Egypt and for Egyptian tennis players always gives hope. And I think this is a new beginning for me and for the Egyptian tennis."
Egypt's tennis legend El-Shafei won the men's singles tournament at Wimbledon in 1964 and was the runner up in 1963.
El-Shafei was the only Egyptian to make the top 40 in the Grand Prix/ATP rankings and one of only four players to beat former world number one Bjorn Borg of Sweden in the third round en route to a quarter-final appearance at the 1974 Wimbledon Championship.
Safwat made a fine start to his Australian Open qualifying campaign when he defeated Nagal 7-6, 6-2 in two sets before beating Muller 7-5, 7-5.
In the decisive qualifying round, Safwat overcame Russian Evgeny Donskoy, the world number 106, with a 7-5, 6-4 victory. However, he failed to get past the first round of the Australian Open, losing to Frenchman Gergorie Barrere in a tight contest 7-6 (10-8), 6-7 (1-7), 4-6, 6-7 (5-7).
"My matches were tough. It is the first major tournament of the year. All the players were well-prepared and motivated for start of the season. I managed to beat three tough opponents and my performance level was improving every match I play.”
Safwat was 173rd in the world ranking. After the Australian Open, he expects his new world ranking to be between 155 to160.
He has been competing regularly in the grand slam tournaments over the past three years.
He is getting ready to participate in two Challenger tournaments in Australia followed by another one in India. After that, he will fly to Dubai to take part in the men's event at the 2020 Tennis Championship. He will then compete at Davis Cup.
Safwat will be the first Egyptian tennis player to take part in the Olympics when he features in the summer Games in Tokyo.
He qualified for the Olympics after clinching the gold medal at the 12th African Games last year in Morocco.
"It is an honour to be the first Egyptian to step a foot in the Olympics," he said.
"I am focusing on playing in big tournaments with higher-level opponents to get ready for the Olympics. I hope I can deliver the level Egyptians and Egyptian players are expecting."
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