On the Map: Hazem Naw Paves the Way for Syrian Tennis



by JOVICA ILIC

On the Map: Hazem Naw Paves the Way for Syrian Tennis
© Instagram - Hazem Naw

The 24-year-old Hazem Naw has been the only Syrian player on the ATP ranking list since entering the charts in January 2021. Hazem has passed 1400 rivals on the list within three years, making steady improvements and standing on the verge of the top 400 while dreaming about competing at Majors.

Coming from a troubled country, Naw moved from Aleppo to the capital of Damascus, training at the only "safe" tennis court in Syria. However, the Russian embassy was near his tennis facility, gathering attacks and numerous bombs.

Naw trained once when the bomb detonated next to the court, taking him down and injuring his hand and arm. The youngster underwent surgery and returned to the same court two days later! Hazem and his brother moved to Lebanon in 2015 and competed in various junior events before settling in Cologne, Germany.

He embraced his new home at Rot-Weiss Cologne, training with Dustin Brown, Oscar Otte and Andreas Mies and kicking off his Oberliga and Bundesliga journey. Naw represented Syria in the Davis Cup in 2020 and secured his first ATP point in January 2021, a couple of days after his 21st birthday.

Growing up on the fast surfaces at home in Syria (built for basketball), Hazem reached the Futures semi-final on the carpet in September and claimed his first Futures title in Monastir in January 2022, at the same event where his first ATP point came a year ago!

Hazem Naw, Koblenz Challenger 2024© Stream screenshot

The Syrian wrapped up the 2022 season inside the top-700 and played well in Iran on clay last year, reaching back-to-back Futures semi-finals. He returned to Iran in June and notched another semi-final before lifting his second Futures title in August in Trier.

Hazem closed the season in style with a strong run in Spain, cracking the top-500 and making a victorious start to 2024 with the Futures crown in Iran. Naw returned to Germany and reached the semi-final on the carpet before entering the Koblenz Challenger with a career-high ranking.

Hazem came to Koblenz with five Challenger qualifying wins, and he earned two on an indoor court to book a place in the main draw for the second time at this level.

World no. 422 Hazem Naw is the only Syrian player on the ATP ranking list.

Naw faced the 11th seed Egor Gerasimov in the first round, overcoming a slow start and prevailing 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 24 minutes.

Egor fired 18 aces. However, he struggled on the second serve, facing 12 break points and losing serve three times. The Syrian denied a break point in the 11th game of the second set, claiming it with a late break and controlling the pace in the decider.

Gerasimov produced four comfortable holds in the opening set and grabbed breaks in games three and seven en route to 6-2. They exchanged breaks early in the second set and stayed neck and neck in the following games. Hazem survived numerous deuces and a break point in game 11 before breaking his rival in the next one, stealing the set 7-5 and forcing a decider.

Naw served well and kept the pressure on the other side. The Syrian clinched a break in the fourth game and earned match points on the return at 5-2. Egor denied them and held to extend the battle before Hazem sealed the deal on his serve at 5-3.

World no. 422 secured a place in the main draw in dominant fashion after a 6-0, 6-1 triumph over Franco Agamenone in 47 minutes! The Syrian controlled the pace on serve and return despite landing in 54% of the first serve and firing no aces.

Naw dropped seven points in his games, facing no break points and mounting the pressure on the other side. Agamenone stood nowhere near those numbers, giving away 64% of the points in his games and losing serve five times from 12 chances offered to his opponent.

Hazem Naw, Koblenz Challenger 2024© Stream screenshot

Hazem fired a service winner in the encounter's first game, holding at love with a powerful serve. Agamenone netted a routine forehand in the second game, suffering a break at 15 and pushing Naw into an early advantage.

The Syrian attacked in the third game, landing a smash winner and cementing the lead. Franco netted a forehand in the fourth game, getting broken after giving his rival multiple break points and finding himself 4-0 behind. Hazem clinched the fifth game at 15 after the rival's backhand error, leaving his rival to serve to stay in the set.

Naw erased Agamenone's game point with a volley winner after an extended rally and seized a set point after another loose backhand from his opponent, wrapping up the opener 6-0 in 23 minutes! Hazem held at 15 at the beginning of the second set and created three break chances in game two, eager to extend his streak.

A tall Italian erased them with winners and held after forcing the Syrian's mistake for 1-1. Naw moved 2-1 in front with a hold at love and clinched a break at love a few minutes later after Agamenone's terrible forehand for a 3-1 advantage.

Hazem landed a crafty drop shot winner in the fifth game, producing another fine hold and forging a 4-1 lead. Franco netted a routine forehand in the sixth game, losing serve for the fifth time and finding himself 5-1 behind. Naw served for the victory in game seven and held at 30 to move over the top and reach the main draw.