Swede charting out a new path to success

Swede charting out a new path to success

Swede charting out a new path to success

Elias Ymer's parents are from Ethiopia, a country that constantly churns out champion distance runners. The 21-year-old though pursued a different field.

Born in Sweden, Ymer developed interest in tennis and the progress he has made in the last couple of years could be a sign of exciting things to come. At the tender age of 17, Ymer was roped into the Sweden Davis Cup side. Two years ago, the youngster became only the second player in the history to enter the main draw from qualifying rounds of all four Grand Slams in the same season.  

For a country that has seen greats like Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander rule the game between 1970-90, Sweden is searching for its next star. Ymer, the current top ranked player of the country, is feeling the pressure of living up to the expectations.

"Well it's been tough. I was 17 when I became No 1 in Sweden and I have been No 1 since then. I never had someone to look up to or practice with. In the Davis Cup, I was asked to play singles in my first appearance.

"Usually when you go to Davis Cup you are the fifth option in the team. But for me it's been a different role. But it is what it is and I can only focus on myself. If we get one good player maybe people will watch him and would want to be like him," said Ymer, after his first round win against India's Suraj Prabodh at the Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger on Tuesday.

Ymer was tested a bit by the wild card entrant here at the KSLTA, but the Swede fought his way to the next round. He attributes his style to Michael Chang, the American great and a grinder who never let his short stature affect his game. "I never liked running. My father would watch a lot of tennis and Chang was his favourite player. He would tell me and my brother (Mikael) that 'Michael Chang runs for every ball and you guys should play like him'. It was because of Michael Chang we started playing tennis," said Ymer, ranked 147 in the world.

Ymer's association with Robin Soderling – the last prominent player from Sweden – gave his career a much needed lift. Soderling, famous for his upset win over Spanish great Rafael Nadal at the 2009 French Open, has guided Ymer to two Challengers' titles this year.

"Before training under him I was playing so-so. After we started working together, I have moved 100 places (in the rankings). We have a good connection. It's working very well," he offered.

The rising star has fond memories with Edberg. "I interacted a lot with Edberg. He was sponsoring me during my junior days and he helped me a lot. I went to practice with him in his hometown and he is a nice person. From those three – Edberg, Borg and Wilander – Edberg is the one I like," he said.  

Legendary boxer Mike Tyson and Nadal have had a great influence on Ymer's character. "I read Tyson's book and liked it. He has the mentality and fighting spirit that I need on court. And Nadal is special and unbelievable."