Egyptian wildcard Mohamed Safwat takes the positives from Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships first-round defeat

Despite losing in three sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber, 29-year-old insists that he is happy with the improvements he has made over the last three years

Egyptian wildcard Mohamed Safwat suffered defeat on Monday, but still he sought positives.

Safwat, who earlier this month captured at the fourth time of asking a first Challenger title, lost 6-4, 4-6, 0-6 to Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Safwat took the first set, surrendered narrowly the second, and then struggled in the decider, bowing out in a little more than two hours.

But just like Tunisians Ons Jabeur, in the women’s tournament last week, and Malek Jazira later on Monday, he ensured Arab tennis continued to enjoy its share of the spotlight.

Last month, Jabeur became the first Arab women to reach a Grand Slam singles quarter-final, at the Australian Open, and then in Dubai took a set off Simona Halep, the tournament top seed.

Jaziri, meanwhile, took on world No 1 Novak Djokovic not long after Safwat had departed Centre Court, losing in straight sets but cheered on by a lively crowd.

Safwat was handed decent opposition, too, and showed enough mettle to push hard Kohlschreiber, an eight-time winner on tour.

So his fine start to the year, which includes becoming the first Egyptian in 42 years to qualify for the Australian Open main draw, continued in a way. An ever-strengthening mentality is clearly helping.

“I went into the match treating it like every other,” Safwat said. “He’s a tough opponent and I want to raise my level to be able to beat these kinds of players consistently. So I stepped on the court believing in my chances because that’s the only way you should approach a match if you want to win.

“The key moments were in the second set when we traded breaks, and I had an opportunity to break back at 5-4, but didn’t take it.”

That disappointment aside, the world No 132 remains on track to become the first from his homeland since Ismail El Shafei in the late 1970s to break the top 100. Later this year, he will compete in the Olympics, having won the African Games last August to book his spot in Tokyo – another first for Egyptian tennis.

So, certainly, things are looking up.

“I’ve put in a lot of work the past three years and I think I’ve improved a lot,” Safwat said. “I’m starting to play better at a higher level, getting good results against high-quality players, so I feel I’m going in the right direction. It’s just a matter of time.”

Kohlschreiber, now ranked 80th in the world, next faces Djokovic, the Serb fresh from his Australian Open victory.

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