#NextGenATP First-Time Winner: Mikael Ymer
Six wins in seven days. It was a marathon season-opening week for Mikael Ymer in Noumea, but the 20-year-old would pass every test with aplomb, culminating with his maiden ATP Challenger Tour crown.
Last year, the #NextGenATP contingent accounted for a staggering 29 titles from 20 different players. And they did not waste any time in getting on the scoreboard in 2019.
Ymer clinched his first Challenger trophy on Sunday, securing a 6-3, 6-3 upset of third seed and defending champion Noah Rubin after one hour and 23 minutes. The Swede dethroned Rubin to cap his most successful week as a pro. Three of his six wins came against Top 4 seeds, also toppling No. 1 Federico Delbonis and No. 4 Yuichi Sugita.
Considering Ymer's recent injury struggles, the victory carried an extra layer of satisfaction. The Swede went under the knife three years ago to repair a hip ailment and missed nearly all of the 2016 season due to the injury.
But Ymer would finally find his way to the winners' circle on Sunday. He was a wall at the back of the court throughout the championship clash against Rubin. It was a windy afternoon in Noumea and the 20-year-old managed the conditions to perfection.
The former junior Wimbledon finalist (2015) joined his brother Elias Ymer as active players from Sweden with Challenger trophies. He breaks into the Top 200 for the first time, ascending to a career-high No. 196 in the ATP Rankings.
Ymer spoke to ATPChallengerTour.com following the victory...
Mikael, congrats on winning your first Challenger title. How does it feel to lift the trophy?
I've been working a lot for this. Coming off this preseason, I put in a lot of work and to finally have a title under my belt is a relief. It's a very nice feeling.
It has been a struggle with injuries over the years. How rewarding is this moment considering everything you've been through?
Yeah, it makes it even more special. I've put a lot of time working on my body and made some smart decisions in scheduling and choosing tournaments. One of my goals is to be injury-free and it's going to be very important this year.
To win your first Challenger title is never easy. What was the key this week? How did you get it done?
I don't know, to be honest. I missed my flight here actually. I was supposed to arrive last Thursday but I arrived on Saturday. I was a bit jet-lagged and on the first day I had some problems with my elbow, but the physio here did a great job and I managed to play all week. I stayed very calm and positive and I definitely think that helped.
In this new format, you had to win six matches in seven days. Physically and mentally, did it feel any different?
Coming off last year, where I'd have to win three qualifying matches and then five in the main draw, I prefer this system. And some qualies were very tough. This way definitely adds some pressure on the body, but someone has to do it. This week it was me.
Talk about the final. Noah was the defending champion and it's never an easy match against him.
Noah always makes you play and he's a great competitor. Coming into the match I knew it was going to be physical, but that's one of my strengths and I used it well. It was a solid performance I think.
How important was your preseason training? What did you and your team work on?
As much as we worked on the tennis part, with my new coach Frederik Nielsen, it was so much more than just the tennis. I'm starting to realize it's a very big thing to think about fitness and the mental side too. Thinking about how to approach matches, how to act in some situations, it feels like he's digging deep into my brain. Freddie is doing a great job so far and I'm really happy. I know how much effort he puts into my career and I'm glad for both of us.
Last year was your first full season competing on the Challenger Tour. What did you learn the most and take away from the experience?
That's a good question. One thing I'm going to bring to this year is being ready mentally whenever I go to a Challenger. I realized that when I manage to go deep in a week, it takes a lot on the mental side. I'm going to make sure that I had a good preparation and am fresh mentally. The body isn't always going to feel fresh, but I need to perform. Many times last year I arrived the day before and thought it was going to be all sorted out, but now it's very structured. That's important.
Your brother, Elias, had a great finish to 2018, winning two titles. How did that inspire you to have the same success?
I think about it a lot. His success is my success. I was sitting at home and it felt great. It feels like a win for the whole Ymer family. The fact that I was able to squeeze in another title is great. That's three titles in two months for us, so that's very special.
How much of a role model has Elias been over the years?
He's my biggest role model. No doubt. We talk almost every day and I always call him up for advice. I listen to him the most. I have a very nice bond with Eli.
You are now in the Top 200 for the first time. Was this a goal of yours? Talk about the milestone.
To be honest, I don't think about rankings or results in that way. Since I've been working with Freddie, we've looked at other goals. That is, goals I can control. An example is that I'm training a specific way or I'm leaving the court knowing that I've done the right thing. The result is just an outcome. I'm not thinking about winning or losing anymore. Then it gets very tough and I haven't been improving that way. This week, I succeeded with more or less all of my goals, and that's what makes very positive for me.