29 year old Mohamed Safwat created history on Saturday by becoming the first Egyptian since Ismail El Shafei in 1978 to ensure his appearance in the Australian Open main draw after coming through the qualifying draw in Melbourne.
Safwat is no stranger to history - he qualified for the 2018 French Open as a lucky loser making him the first man from Egypt to play in a Grand Slam main singles draw in 22 years and is also the first player from Egypt to qualify for the Olympics.
He hopes that he can inspire more Egyptians to follow in his footsteps after persevering through difficult times to reach where he has. Speaking to The National, Safwat says, “I can’t even describe how I happy I was after the match; especially that I beat good players along the way.
It means a lot for me and I think it will give me a good push mentally, that I can believe I can play at this level consistently; that I have the level to compete in the top 100. I think it will give me a boost along this year”.
Currently ranked No. 172 in the world, Safwat says he hopes to break into the Top 100 this year. "I took a different path than the generation before me, I committed to what I do, I didn’t give up on my dreams, I had a rough time throughout the years, ups and downs, and frustration and sadness but thankfully I was always surrounded by the right people.
What I’m doing now will be good for kids back home and should motivate them that they can do it, with the right knowledge and the right people around you, you really can achieve it”. Safwat has already achieved one of his life long goals by qualifying for the Olympic Games - he did so by winning the gold medal at the African Games and will be the first tennis player from Egypt to compete the Olympics.
“Qualifying for the Olympics was one of the things that gave me a big boost last year. Winning the African Games gave me a lot of confidence, it unlocked something in me and it was a turning point in my career. I will try to prepare well before the Olympics this year.
I’m trying to compete in the big tournaments in preparation for Tokyo 2020, because I need to play at a higher level when I get there, I’m ready. I don’t want to go to just show up. No pressure obviously but you prepare well for it and whatever comes is good”.
Safwat will meet France's Gregoire Barrere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday and could run into 22nd seed Guido Pella in the second round.