Get to know Mikael Ymer

 - Chris Oddo

The 22-year-old Swede, on the cusp of a Grand Slam breakthrough, is more concerned with staying on the right path.

Mikael Ymer, Roland-Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

After his best-ever victory at a Grand Slam on Thursday at Roland-Garros, Sweden's Mikael Ymer paid tribute to his older brother Elias as he savoured his triumph over Gael Monfils, making him the first Swedish man to reach the third round since Robin Soderling in 2011.

Ymer, who will square off with Jannik Sinner for a spot in the round of 16, says playing the Grand Slams gives him an extra energy boost, as does competing in the best-of-five set format.

Find out more about the world No.105 who is making waves in Paris...

Gratitude to Elias

It all starts with family for Ymer, who expressed gratitude for the role his big brother Elias - the current world No.194 who fell in the first round of qualifying this year in Paris - has played in his career, and his life.

"For sure. If there is one thing I would point out [as being] the reason [I am] where I am today, it would be no doubt my older brother in so many ways," Ymer says.

"Not only that I sparred with him for years, it's also the mental aspect, that he's been the older brother who both showed the way, as in the tennis part, but also the outside.

"There is so much more than hitting a yellow ball, and with this he has been a great example, he has always made sure that I stay on a good path, a healthy path off court. For this I owe him forever. I always say I think it goes both ways, but you know if the other one wasn't there I don't think there would have been one of us... Yeah thank you to Eli!"

Five sets are his jazz

Most young players find the best-of-five format at Grand Slams completely brutal. But Ymer? He loves it. The Swede has confidence in his fitness, and he says he enjoys the longer matches because it allows him time to make adjustments and find his groove in matches.

"I think it helps me that it's best-of-five," he said, following his 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No.14 seed Monfils. "Not necessarily today, but sometimes it's a little bit more forgiving in a Grand Slam, in case you are a slow-starter, you have a chance to really dig in."

Ymer recalls his victory over Poland's Hubert Hurkacz in the first round at this year's Australian Open as a prime example of his theory.

"Like it happened against Hurkacz, I was 2-1 down and that would technically be match over in a best-of-three," he said. "So I think it gives me a lot of time to try to find a way, and make it physically tough, which is one of my strengths. I think this definitely helps."

Mikael Ymer, Gael Monfils, Roland-Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

There's nothing like a Grand Slam

Ymer connects with the Grand Slams and says that from a young age, ever since his father put him in front of a TV to watch tennis, he remembers watching the biggest stages of the sport, like Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.

"I think tennis is more fun in these types of tournaments - Grand Slams - because this is what you really [aim for]," he says, adding: "At least it was for me, growing up and watching, it was the Grand Slams.

"My dad put them on and made me watch them. It's a bit surreal, and I think this also gives me a boost of energy to somehow, even subconsciously, prepare a little bit better or be a little bit more mentally engaged and be more willing to dig deep in these stages. So far I'm really happy with these two good victories at Grand Slams this year."

Mikael Ymer, Roland-Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Practice makes perfect

Ymer was a practice partner of Stefanos Tsitsipas for two weeks during the coronavirus quarantine at the Australian Open. The Swede says experiences like that are critical for his development and he points to some other opportunities he has had to work with top players as also having an impact on his game.

"I think it helps," he said of practising with top players. "Whomever it is that has done these kind of things, there are a lot of similarities in all of them. Any time you get the chance to be in this environment I think it's healthy.

"At the end of the coronavirus break last year I was [in the south of France] at the Mouratoglou Academy and I had a good chance to train with a lot of good players in Monte-Carlo, and I said I think it's a pattern that you see.

"When you leave sometimes there is some kind of mental boost and good energy that can definitely reflect in your game. When you come back to training you also see how focused and how mature they are in their training, so this reflects on you, I think environment is very important, to be in this environment, it's definitely good."

Figuring out the majors

He didn't surpass the second round at a Grand Slam in his first four opportunities, but Ymer is suddenly blossoming on the sports' biggest stages.

On Thursday, he earned his first top-20 victory against Monfils, a Roland-Garros legend. Earlier this year in Australia, he notched his first top-30 win over Hurkacz, then defeated Spain's Carlos Alcaraz in four sets to reach the third round.

Ymer's fine form has translated to other events as well. He owns three top-50 wins in his career, and all three have come in the last five months.

He believes it is his work ethic and ability to stay positive, even during the pandemic, that has helped him make his way to higher ground.

"I think have a pretty clear path, it's just trying to be able to execute this, which has not been too easy," he says. "I would say ever after the tennis started after coronavirus, but I try to take it day by day and I still think it's getting better and better, which is very positive, I try to see it from the positive side."

Mikael Ymer, Roland-Garros 2021, second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Ymer says he is comforted by the fact that he feels he still hasn't hit his maximum capacity as a player. For him it is exciting to know that he can have success while still having more to give.

"It's also sometimes an energy boost for me, I am still playing good but knowing I have more in my toolbox," he said. "There are things to improve and I'm still here competing with a very high level of tennis players.

"This is positive and I try to bring this into consideration when things are tough and you have a first-round loss, etc... you try to see it from a positive side and keep working and just hoping in the end that it pays off, and with this I am very pleased."