World No. 159 Mohamed Safwat became the first Egyptian male tennis player to qualify for the Olympics and doing so meant a lot to him. "Qualifying for the Olympics was one of the things that gave me a big boost. Winning the African Games gave me a lot of confidence, it unlocked something in me and it was a turning point in my career,” Safwat, 30, told The National.
Safwat, a former world No. 130, watched tennis for the first in 1997, when Gustavo Kuerten won the French Open. "I liked his style. I don’t think I knew much about tennis at the time, I don’t think I could even understand the scoring system,” said Safwat of Kuerten.
Safwat always believed he would become a tennis player
Watching tennis greats such as Kuerten, record 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, American tennis legends Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras made Safwat determined to become a professional player.
"Since I was a kid, watching Federer, Kuerten, Agassi and Sampras on TV, I always thought, ‘why can’t we be like them and make it?’” Safwat said. “I was never convinced that this life is too tough and that it’s a tough road, that it requires a lot of money, that it requires luck.
I always saw it as: He trains, I train. He works hard, I work hard. He has legs, I have legs. “I was young and didn’t understand what I needed in order to make it. Now I get it; I get that it’s about the knowledge, having someone around you to show you the way, people who know what you need to develop and to take the next step.
“When I was young, I always thought, ‘why not?’ and many people laughed at me for it”. This season, Safwat's best result came at the Istanbul Challenger, where he made the semifinal before losing to Benjamin Bonzi.