Mohamed Safwat, 23, is currently at a new career high singles ranking and tops the men's leaderboard for singles title wins in 2013. We took an opportunity to find out more about this player from Egypt.
ITF Pro Circuit: First of all, how does it feel to be top of the 2013 leaderboard for men’s singles titles wins on the Circuit?
Mohamed Safwat: Well it was a great surprise for me, I never thought about being at the top of the leaderboard for men's singles titles this year, it was a great year for me and that’s made it even better!
Can you tell us where were you born and maybe describe the area where you grew up?
I was born in a city called Mansoura, it's 120km away from Cairo. I was raised in a sporty family, all the members of my family used to play tennis. I get a lot of support from my father and my mother particularly at the beginning of my career.
How did you get started in tennis?
My whole family used to play tennis and I was watching them but I couldn't play so I decided to learn how to play when I was at age five or six years old, but at the age of six years old I also liked to play football so I was mixing up between football and tennis from till aged nine when I quit football as I got a very bad injury.
I was playing local tournaments, under 9’s and 10’s, but I wasn't that good at that time but people saw a good talent in me. At the age of 11 I changed coach and worked even harder, I learnt a lot of skill and in one year I finished at No. 4 in under 12’s in Egypt.
The first tournament I won in my life was in Ahly Club under 12’s and that was a surprise for everyone!
What can you tell us about your current coach?
Martin Spottli, I started to work with him since April when I was ranked around No. 450, now I am No. 206. I’ve known him for three years now but we never had a chance to work together, then this year we spoke and we decided to work together. He helps me a lot, he let me believe in myself, we have a very strong bond, he is always behind me, supporting me, giving me his best, more than the best, he simply just helps me in everything in my life.
Who were/are your tennis idols?
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick.
What is your greatest tennis memory either as a player or as a fan?
When I won my first Futures which was in Thailand, I still remember how the match point was!
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced on court in an ITF Pro Circuit match?
There is no specific opponent, every match is tough and I try to give 100 per cent but of course I can’t forget my match against James McGee (IRL) in Morocco (June 2011). We played nearly four hours and it was a 1st round 76(4) 67(4) 76(3) win and I was down 4-1 in the third and I come back, it was a great fight from both of us.
In your opinion, what would you say are the best and worst aspects of being a professional tennis player?
Best aspects is you are travelling a lot around the world seeing new culture, making new friends while the worst aspects, in my opinion, it is very difficult to have a family as you are always travelling and it is tough to take your family with you everywhere unless if you become Top 50 ranked.
So far in your career, what has been the nicest ITF Pro Circuit venue that you played at?
Sharm El Sheik.
Any on-court amusing incidents that you can share?
I was playing a semifinal in Sharm El Sheik, it was a long match. At 4-4 in the third set, my opponent had been hitting a lot of balls with the frame and the funny thing was every ball would go in and at 4-4 I told him "man come on you hit everything with the frame" and he looked and me and smiled saying sorry, after that he lost eight balls in a row, didn’t make one single shot inside, we talked after the match and we had a laugh [smiles].
Which player(s) are you friends with?
I have lot of friends on the Circuit but the closet one I would say is Sherif Sabry (EGY).
How do players relationships with each other at tournaments compare on the ITF Pro Circuit to other Circuits you may have played?
Well, on the ITF Pro Circuit players are more sociable, they eat together and you also see them around, on the ATP Tour it is different, everyone has his own team or a coach and they are not as sociable as the players on the ITF Circuit, I have been thinking about that a lot but I couldn't find a good reason.
How has playing on the ITF Pro Circuit helped you as a player?
I got huge experience from travelling and meeting new people, it helped me to build my personality on and off court. I also improved my level, to go to a higher level you have to pass through the ITF Pro Circuit and get that experience.
Would you recommend that juniors go on to play the ITF Pro Circuit?
Of course. It’ll give them huge experience, it can help them to develop their game quickly.
Thinking of other male players, past and present, name the various players whose attributes would you take to create your own male super player?
Serve: Roger Federer
Return of Serve: Andre Agassi
Forehand: Mohamed Safwat
Backhand: Marcos Baghdatis
Volley: Roger Federer
Positioning: Novak Djokovic
Speed on court: Rafael Nadal
Concentration: Rafael Nadal
Fighting spirit: Rafael Nadal
Entertainment: Marat Safin
If you could only have one Grand Slam title, which would you choose?
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
"Eye of the tiger, play as a man, you lose, lose as a man and never give up."
Away from the tennis court do you have any other interests?
I love to play video games on iPad or PS3.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
I don’t have any favourite place, I just like to be with my wife anywhere!
Have you set yourself any goals for 2014?
Trying to be in Top 100-150.
Finally, tell us something about yourself that possibly not many people already know?
I am, off court, very lazy, don’t like to do much, just get my pizza and play video games [smiles].