Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat rang the New Year in the best way possible, picking up two victories to qualify for the Qatar Open main draw in Doha.
The world No199 from Mansoura beat Japanese world No127 Taro Daniel in his first match before overcoming French world No143 Vincent Millot 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 on Sunday to advance to the main draw in the Qatari capital.
Safwat faces Belgian wildcard Arthur de Greef in the first round on Monday.
The 26-year-old believes his strong preseason training with his coach Martin Spottl in Austria is already paying dividends.
“My coach and I had put a target for myself to qualify for at least four ATP tournaments this season, so that’s one of them,” Safwat told Sport360 on Sunday in Doha.
“We had a strong preseason, worked hard all year and during the offseason and tried to improve a lot of things on both the physical and mental sides and now it’s paying off.”
Lack of funds meant Safwat has been struggling to travel full-time with a coach but he’s had Spottl regularly in his corner for the past six months.
“I’ve been working on and off with him for a long time but we’ve been able to stay together continuously since last July, write before Wimbledon,” explained Safwat.
Speaking of his qualifying campaign in Doha, the Egyptian added: “It was really hot and it was tough conditions in the first qualifying round but I fought hard. I felt like the things we’ve worked on I was able to use them well in that match.
“Today (against Millot), mentally was a challenge after losing that second set 6-0. But I managed to come back even though I was lost in the match and was telling my coach I don’t know what to do and couldn’t put one ball in the court. But I got myself back in it which shows that the work I’ve done on my mental strength is paying off so far. I’m pleased with that.”
Safwat had a solid 2016 where he was one match away from qualifying to Wimbledon and where he reached his maiden Challenger final in Morocco.
He is the highest ranked Egypt and the second-highest ranked Arab on the men’s tour.
It’s been a positive start to 2017 for Arabs in tennis as Tunisian Ons Jabeur qualified for the Shenzhen Open main draw before claiming a 6-0, 6-2 first round victory over Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele on Monday. In the second round, the 22-year-old Jabeur takes on Nina Stojanovic, who upset fifth-seeded Hungarian Timea Babos.
Tunisian Malek Jaziri opens his Qatar Open campaign against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in Doha on Tuesday.