“Lucky Loser” Mohamed Safwat of Egypt Makes Major Tournament Debut at French Open
(May 27, 2018) Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat is the first man from his country to play in the main draw of a major since the 1996 US Open. Safwat who lost in the last round of qualifying reached the main draw of Roland Garros when Victor Troicki withdrew on Sunday with a back injury, so the world No. 182nd-ranked Safwat had to make a quick turnaround to play fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov as “Lucky Loser,” making his major tournament debut.
He became the seventh Lucky Loser to move into main draw of the men’s tournament this year. So far there are eight, an unusually high number for a major.
The 27-year-old Safwat defeated Blaz Rola and No. 28 seed Henri Laaksonen (in the first two rounds of qualifying, before losing to No. 9 seed Guido Andreozzi in the final round of qualifying. It was Safwat’s eighth appearance in a Grand Slam qualifying draw.
This was Safwat’s second Tour-level appearance this year, the first came in Egypt’s Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II first round victory against Norway.
The eight will take the place of Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the tournament citing an injured right elbow.
Dimitrov said that he found out a mere 20 minutes before the match that Troicki had pulled out of the tournament and Safwat was his new opponent.
Although his debut at a major tournament ended with a loss to Dimitrov 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (1), he is happy with his performance this week.
“It’s something big. I mean, I always was dream to play on center court with such a crowd. And I had thoughts I might get in here and play Nadal in the first round. But it was really, really a lot of things happened to me in the last few months, and this is one of the biggest thing. I never ever thought I will be — that, you know, go in the final round and then have a chance to compete in a tournament, in the main draw, in a Grand Slam against a good player in the center court in Philippe Chatrier.
“It’s something I always saw it on TV, but I never had the experience to see. So it was really, really enjoyable for me.”
“I was sleeping,” said Safwat talking about when he was notified. “I just wake up and I didn’t understand what was going on. And I didn’t even thought a second that I would have to go on court in the first match. I was kind of prepared, yes, I have to do a warmup and, yeah, but I was already, like, going to warmup, to have a second practice, and thinking what I will do in the rest of the day.”
This is the second major tournament under a new rule adopted by the Grand Slam Board which lets players get half of their first-round prize money if they are not fit to play before the main draw begins. Their replacement gets the other half in this case about $23,000 US dollars.
“This is a milestone in my career. I just finish the match, I think, 40 minutes ago, but I’m just celebrating what I’ve done this week.
This week was a lot of changes for me, and I really enjoyed it. But definitely this week was a milestone, and I need to stop on what happened this week and need to learn. And I need to look again on the match and see what can be improved, either mentally or physically or tennis or, you know, what I need to add on the game to compete.
“You know, just not to see that now I played on the center court; I got in the Grand Slam, lucky loser, and that’s it. You know, I don’t want to have it like this. I would like, you know, to look at it more, to start to see what I need to improve, to go up, because that’s always the goal and the dream to go up, not to be happy with what you get. Definitely I’m happy at this moment, but, like I said,
it’s a milestone. I need to go forward.”