Elias Ymer was born in Sweden to Ethiopian parents. As one of the young stars in contention to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, the 21-year-old Elias has the privilege of travelling the world as a tennis player, seeing some of the most affluent cities.
But the down-to-earth Swede is only too aware of the life he could have led, had his parents not left war-torn Ethiopia in the 1980s to start a new life in Sweden. In a Hollywood-style twist, his parents, despite having grown up in neighbouring areas of Addis Ababa, did not meet until they both found their own way to Sweden.
“To leave their country, and go to another country to start a new life, that’s warrior stuff,” says Elias. “That’s mental strength.”
Last month, Elias returned to Addis Ababa with his father, Wandwosen Yemer, to see his parents’ hometown. It was only his third visit to the East African country, his first in five years, and it was with a newfound maturity that he could appreciate how different his life could have been.
For one thing, he likely would have been a runner. Famed for its long-distance runners, Ethiopia boasts the male world record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, Kenenisa Bekele. Wandwosen Yemer was a keen runner, and it was running trophies that adorned the shelves in the Ymer family home as Elias and his two younger brothers grew up.
During the trip, Elias and his father ran together at Bekele’s running club in the hills outside Addis Ababa, visited Addis Mercato – the biggest open market in Africa – and spent time with Elias’ grandmother and great grandmother. ATP World Tour Uncovered chronicles their journey.
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