We’re not sure exactly of the criteria the Tennis Integrity Unit uses to decide who gets the hammer and who gets the velvet glove, when it comes to reporting approaches from corrupt chaps up to no good.
But we finally see a name we recognize, among these bulletins from the TIU about suspensions and fine for match-fixing.
On Friday night – in the middle of the night in London – the TIU sent out a press release announcing that Egyptian player Mohamed Safwat had been found guilty of “failing to report corrupt approaches to the Tennis Integrity Unit”.
Safwat is a legit pro player. He’s not one of those fellow trolling the Futures circuit looking for opportunities. The 28-year-old has earned nearly half a million dollars in his career, albeit over a long period of time, and has played Davis Cup since 2009.
Just before Wimbledon last summer, he reached his career high in singles of No. 163.
Safwat currently is ranked No. 233, after dropping 43 spots on Monday. A year ago, he reached the final of a $150,000 Challenger in Anning, China. He lost in the third round of a $54,000 tournament in Mexico this year – hence the loss of points.
The announcement comes more than four months after Safwat’s hearing.
“An independent Anti-Corruption Hearing held in London on 20 and 21 December 2018 found that the 28-year old received a number of corrupt approaches in 2015, but failed to report them to the TIU, as required by the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP). He was also found guilty of a further charge of failing to report knowledge or suspicion of corruption offences by another party,” the statement reads.
Suspended sentence and small fine
As a result of this conviction, Safwat received a six-month sentence and a $5,000 fine.
But the sentence is suspended. And 80 per cent of the fine ($4,000) is suspended as long as he doesn’t mess up again.
What we conclude from this – and this is not based on any inside intel but merely on common sense – is that Safwat was extremely cooperative in the sense that he gave the TIU some good leads to pursue.
Second Egyptian suspended Friday
In 2015, the year referenced in the announcement, Safwat played a lot of Futures events in Egypt – in Cairo, and also at the Futures factory in Sharm el Sheikh.
In what we think is something far less than a coincidence, another TIU press release had dropped about six hours earlier Friday.
Another Egyptian – a completely unknown, unranked player named Issam Taweel who is of similar age, and who also has been on that Egyptian circuit on a regular basis – also was suspended and fined.
Taweel was found guilty of “attempting to contrive the outcome of a match, failing to report a corrupt approach and failing to disclose knowledge of the corrupt activity of another party” after a hearing in London Feb. 26.
He is provisionally suspended, with the suspension length and fine to be determined at a later date.
Whether the two are good friends is not known. But they have met a dozen times in doubles and singles going all the way back to 2008. Almost all of those matches came on that Egyptian circuit.
Safwat won all but two of those encounters.
But, more pertinently, the two have teamed up in doubles numerous times.
Notably, during that 2015 season on that same circuit, they played doubles twice together in Sharm el Sheikh. They reached the final both times. They lost both times.
A long career in the Futures
Safwat was 14 when he played his first pro event back in 2005. He was a top-50 junior, while Taweel never made it inside the top 200.
He has 24 career titles on the Futures circuit; 19 of them came in Egypt.
Safwat has played in 16 ATP Tour events, including four times in Doha and twice in Dubai.
He reached his first career Grand Slam main draw last year at the French Open.
Safwat ended up getting the last-minute call from way down the lucky loser list during that notorious wave of withdrawals that turned Marco Trungelliti into a celebrity for a few days.
Safwat, who had about an hour’s notice, acquitted himself well against Grigor Dimitrov after a slow start, losing 6-1, 6-4, 7-6. That he went from planning to leave for his next event to Court Philippe Chatrier would have led anyone to have a slow start.
He currently is six out of the qualifying for this year’s event.
But if Safwat gets in, which is likely, he will be allowed to play. Safwat was the No. 7 seed at the $135,000 Challenger in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this week.
He lost in the third round to No. 9 seed Mirza Basic. Safwat earned $2,150 and nine ATP Tour ranking points.