Elias Ymer returns to family roots in Ethiopia

by Zelalem

Elias Ymer, who recently turned 21, announced himself to the tennis world at a young age. In 2015, the Swedish up-and-comer became only the second player to make his way through qualifying at all four Grand Slams in the same season, beating veterans like Benoit Paire, Albert Montanes as well as fellow rising star Hyeon Chung along the way. At No. 193, he’s the No. 1-ranked Swede on the ATP tour. 

But there is something that tennis fans may not know about the big-hitting Ymer and his younger brother Mikael: They were born in Sweden, but their parents are both Ethiopian.

Ymer recently returned to his parents’ hometown for only the third time—they met after moving to Sweden separately in the 1980s. Accompanied by his father Wandwosen Ymer, Elias Ymer gained a newfound appreciation for what tennis has brought him, and where he may be today if his parents never left Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

“To leave their country, and go to another country to start a new life, that’s warrior stuff,” Elias Ymer said. “That’s mental strength.”

Ethiopia has not competed in the Davis Cup since 2002, and its best-ever result in the competition was finishing 13th in the Europe/Africa Zone’s Group III in 1997. Sweden, on the other hand, has had its fair share of success, winning the Davis Cup title seven times (the most recent coming in 1998). The nation has boasted big-time stars like Stefan Edberg, Bjorn Borg, Thomas Enqvist, Mats Wilander and Robin Soderling.

While not producing a tennis great just yet, Ethiopia has won 53 Olympic medals—all of them have come in an athletics discipline such as marathon running.

“They say to me, ‘Elias we’re tired of running now, please make it in tennis,’” Elias Ymer said of the members of his family. “If I can make something in tennis, I think that would be cool too for the country.”

While the Ymer brothers do not represent Ethiopia, their success can still inspire those from their parents’ home country. Elias and his 18-year-old brother Mikael teamed up for the first time together to win the Stockholm doubles title last year. 

Elias Ymer remains in the Top 200 in the world after reaching a high of No. 118 last year, while Mikael is ranked No. 408.

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