Safwat Claims Egypt's First Title Since 1996
Winning your maiden ATP Challenger Tour title is always a significant achievement. Whether it's a teenager breaking through or an established veteran finally putting it all together, it is a massive moment for any player in their careers.
Words cannot describe the feeling of ecstasy and elation that comes with a first piece of silverware. And it's not just the players that enjoy their moment in the spotlight. The impact can often extend to the country they represent, especially if that nation is first emerging on the tennis scene.
For Mohamed Safwat and his native Egypt, that moment finally arrived on Sunday. Safwat became just the second Egyptian to win a Challenger title and first since 1996, when Tamer El Sawy went back-to-back in The Bronx, New York. The long 24-year drought came to a close as Safwat fired a service winner out wide to clinch the title in Launceston, Australia.
"I can’t really describe how I feel," Safwat told Egyptian sports journalist Reem Abulleil. "It’s something I’ve been chasing for a long time. I’ve been working hard towards it. Multiple times in the past I got very close to it but I couldn’t take it. This time, I never expected to win it in Launceston, never ever.
"I feel good and I think it’ll give me a push and confidence for the rest of the year. For me it’s good that all this is happening at the start of the year because that will give me a push for the rest of the year. I played four tournaments already and a lot happened for me."
Safwat defeated Alex Bolt 7-6(5), 6-1 to prevail on the hard courts of the Launceston International, capping an impressive week down under. He dropped just one set all tournament, having rallied from a set down to beat Kimmer Coppejans in the semis.
"I think this will give me a boost and confidence to play the bigger tournaments against tougher opponents."— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 9, 2020
What a moment for Mohamed Safwat! Ten years after making his #ATPChallenger debut, the 🇪🇬 has his maiden title. Champion in Launceston. pic.twitter.com/SRqP8W1XAG
Safwat has been flying the flag for Egypt for the past decade, as the only player from his country in the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Fellow North African nations of Tunisia and Morocco have both featured Challenger champions in that span. For a nation without a rich tennis history, a moment like this can provide a significant boon and inspire a new generation of Egyptian players.
“I took a different path than the generation before me," Safwat added. "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.”
The impact for Safwat personally cannot be understated. Nearly 10 years after making his Challenger debut, he finally lifted a trophy for the first time. A total of 133 tournaments came and went without tasting victory. Until now. And it comes just a few weeks after qualifying for a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open. He did not drop a set in three matches to reach the main draw.
Mohamed Safwat makes Egyptian tennis history!— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 9, 2020
The 29-year-old becomes just the second 🇪🇬 champion ever, claiming his maiden title in Launceston. First winner from Egypt since Tamer El Sawy in 1996. pic.twitter.com/g2m95ZPt4L
After suffering three previous final defeats, a composed Safwat needed just 72 minutes to triumph on Sunday. Runner-up in Kenitra, Morocco in 2016; Anning, China in 2018 and Helsinki, Finland in 2019, it was just a matter of time before the 29-year-old entered the winners' circle.
"A lot of things are changing and this one feels very special. I probably can’t express how I feel and I can’t find the correct words to describe all this. This for me is a special thing. And because it comes with a career-high ranking, I’ll be 130 in the world."
Currently sitting at a career-high of No. 157 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Safwat is projected to rise to No. 130.