Kenya’s tennis prodigy, Angella Okutoyi, 17, made history at this year’s Australian Open by being the first Kenyan woman to win a match at a junior grand slam tournament.
Despite the Australian Open being Okutoyi’s debut in a junior grand slam event, she progressed to the third round before losing to Serbia’s Lola Radivojevic. On her way, she won two close three-set matches, defeating Italian qualifier Federica Urgesi in the first round and Zara Larke from Australia in the second.
It is the first time in 16 years a Kenyan has played at the Australian Open Juniors, and it is only the second time a Kenyan girl has played a junior grand slam tournament.
Okutoyi’s junior ranking now stands at 71 in the world.
Her achievements have made headlines back home in Kenya.
“We are proud of you. As a Ministry, we will support you and many other young athletes to ensure you excel in all the various sports codes,” tweeted the Kenyan government.
Some of the country’s icons, like sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala, boxer Christine Ongare, and actress Lupita Nyong’o also showed their support. Tennis legend, Billie Jean King, congratulated Okutoyi on making history. “Love watching our sport grow across the globe,” she posted.
Okutoyi’s journey to become a tennis professional started at age four. She moved to Burundi aged 10 to train at the ITF East Africa Regional Training Centre, before returning to Nairobi two years later to develop her game at the ITF East Africa High Performance Centre in Nairobi.
Okutoyi already has several impressive achievements to her name, having won a number of local and regional titles. In 2018, she became the youngest player to win the Kenya Open. At the end of 2021, she won African Junior Championships, beating the top seed Aya El Aouni, in Sousse, Tunisia.
“To make history here in Melbourne has been very special,” Okutoyi told itftennis.com. “I am happy that people in Kenya have been able to see that and they, together with African players more generally, realize they have a chance to do the same.”
“In Kenya, most people who play tennis are not well-off. Their families, like mine, don’t have much and I just want to encourage them and say that situation doesn’t mean they cannot reach here, and it doesn’t define them. It can actually give them a drive and a motivation to do good.”
Tennis Kenya have said that her momentous run at the tournament will inspire other Kenyans to pick up a racket.
“By following Angie’s matches, Kenyans’ interest in tennis has piqued and she has been trending on Twitter,” Tennis Kenya general secretary, Wanjiru Mbugua-Karani, told itftennis.com. “Her performance has inspired Kenyans around the country to sit up and take notice of her and tennis in general.”
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