Esam Taha takes a look at under the radar young gun Elias Ymer of Sweden
Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
In an era hungry for young talent to make their presence felt in the upper echelon of tennis, a few names are starting to emerge. You might’ve heard of the likes of Borna Coric, Nick Kygrios, or even Alexander Zverev, all gifted young men indeed, however today I want to shed some light on a lesser known name. Elias Ymer.
So who is Elias? Elias, or ‘Eli’ as he has been nicknamed, is an up and coming 18 year old Swedish tennis player looking to make an impact on top flight ATP tennis. Elias began playing tennis at 4 years old in Sweden, introduced to the sport by his father who happens to be a professional long distance runner. It was clear that Ymer had talent from his early age, his forehand especially was advanced well beyond his years and remains his main weapon today. As he grew into his teens he started to stand out especially on clay courts, the surface that seems to suit his game the best.
It has been quite some time since Sweden had any top players, perhaps since the injury-riddled Johansson, and of course former slam finalist Robin Soderling, who sadly fell victim to Mono, but they might finally have something in Ymer. It didn’t take long for Elias to make his impact at the junior level, in 2012 he reached his first final down in Plantation, Florida at the Orange Bowl, where he lost a tight affair to Laslo Djere. Djere, a 19 year old Serb who seeks to lead Serbian tennis after the Djokovic/Tipsarevic generation, seems to have Ymer’s number as he also halted Ymer’s title bid at Eddie Herr by beating him in the semi-final. Despite the lack of titles at the junior level Ymer was ranked as high as 5th overall in the ITF junior rankings, mainly due to his well-rounded consistent performance.
It didn’t take Ymer too much time adjusting making the transition from playing with boys to battling with grown men. It also didn’t take him long to raise some eyebrows when he took on Grigor Dimitrov in his home country at the Bastad, Sweden 250 ATP event. He had Dimitrov on upset alert as he took the first set 7-5, however he’d eventually lose the match after battling out a closely contested 3rd set. Ymer seems to enjoy playing in front of his home crowd as he made it all the way to the final at another Swedish futures event. To the delight of his hometown crowd, Ymer would also become the youngest player since former world no.1 Mats Wilander to get called up for the Davis Cup. He would end 2013 ranked 816th in the world with 0 titles. 2014 would be a different story.
After a year under his belt, Elias had the experience he needed to step his game up and announce his presence. Only 17 years old at the time, Ymer claimed his first professional title at a futures event in Egypt without dropping a set. He seemed enjoy the clay courts and desert weather in Egypt as he went back to back less than a month later in another Egypt futures event. The young Swede was on a roll. He would add 3 more futures titles in the summer including one in his home country. Brimming with confidence, Ymer would claim his first ATP victory in the same tournament he gave Grigor a scare a year ago, ATP 250 Bastad, Sweden. He would convincingly defeat Mikhail Kukushkin, ranked 52nd at the time, in straight sets. He would lose in the next round to Jose Sousa, but it was exactly the kind of ATP level experience he needed at this stage of his career. Ymer would finish 2014 with 5 futures titles and an ATP world ranking of 267, moving up a whopping 549 spots from 2013.
Ymer continues to build on his 2014 form in 2015 with a win over Igor Sijsling in Chennai and making his first Grand Slam appearance at the Australian Open. Elias made it through qualifying only to lose a close to 4 hours 5 set grinder to Go Soeda in the first round. Under the tutelage of Magnus Norman, Ymer continues to improve and work on his game. He currently trains at Good to Great Tennis Academy in Stockholm, and setting his sight at cracking the top 100 this year. While the other young guns claim the lion’s share of the spotlight, keep a close eye on this young Swedish talent. He might just be the guy that gets between those other names and Grand Slam titles a few years from now.