The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

Angella Okutoyi: From orphanage to conquering Wimbledon


One of Kenya’s most feel-good stories in recent years has been the success of tennis sensation Angella Okutoyi.

She has taken Kenyan tennis to new heights and is currently one of the best junior tennis players in the world.

In the past two years, Okutoyi has risen to be a star at a young age, conquering Kenya, Africa and now the world in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments. The Kenya seed one has achieved so much yet she is still just 18 years old and far from the prime years of her career.

“One thing I love about the sport is that it teaches you to be independent,” Okutoyi said in a past interview. “It takes determination, discipline and belief.”

At the start of this year, Okutoyi captured the imagination of the nation by making history at the Australian Open Junior Championships in January. She became the first Kenyan to not only win but also reach the third round of the Australian Open.

In May, Okutoyi achieved another historic feat after progressing to the second round of the JA Roland Garros (French Open Juniors).

The former Africa Under-18 champion became the first Kenya to win a grand slam match at the French Open.

Okutoyi defeated 17-year-old Amelie Van Impe from Belgium 7-6, 6-4 in the round of 64 to progress to the second round.

Her latest feat was when she recently became the first ever Kenyan to win a major Grand Slam trophy.

Okutoyi, who is a member of the Grand Slam Player Development Programme/ITF Touring Team, and Nijkamp, defeated Canadian pair of Victoria Mboko and Kayla Cross 3-6 4-6 (11-9) in the final of Wimbledon Open Doubles Junior Championships at the grass courts of All England Lawn Tennis Club.

The duo started the final on the back foot after losing the first set 6-3 against the Canadians.

However, they recovered in the second set, winning it 6-4. The Kenya seed one and the Dutch would seal the win with an 11-9 victory in the tiebreaker against the fourth-seeded Canadians.

All these achievements have made Okutoyi a household name not only in Kenya but also in East Africa.

However, her journey to the Grand Slam stage has not been an easy one.

It is a tale of heartbreak, defiance and hope as the Kenyan teenager overcame immense hurdles and defied significant odds to become a household name in the country and beyond at the age of 18.

Okutoyi’s life was not always illuminated by the limelight – far from it, in fact – and there have been some dark times and difficult moments that have shaped her character and outlook. 

Indeed, there are reminders everywhere, some of which are unavoidable, while others are deliberately placed to inspire.

Born at Pumwani Maternity Hospital and orphaned at birth, Kenyan tennis sensation overcame the challenges to rise to the top. Angella and her twin sister, Roselida Asumwa never set eyes on their mother, who died during delivery in 2004.

Angella is the name she was given by her grandmother Mary Ndonda and which she continues to raise up whenever she picks up the racquet. Her other name, Okutoyi, was her grandfather’s.

 Angella with her grandmother Mary Ndonda. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

"My daughter died during surgery when giving birth to Angella and her twin sister Rosie," Ndonda told the Nairobian Sports when the Standard Group team visited her home in Nairobi.

"They never saw their mother. I raised them through hand and mouth jobs as they moved in and out of the orphanage but am glad they are turning out to be very strong women."

Together with her family, Okutoyi shared a small single servant quarter house in Loreto Convent where her grandmother worked as a cook.

When they were young, the old woman handed her grandchildren to an orphanage home in Limuru.

“There were so many challenges raising them. I thank Loreto Sisters for giving me a job that helped me raise them. According to our Luhya traditions, we never abandon children whose mothers have died and I swore to stick to them through thick and thin,” said Ndonda.

They would soon find themselves back under her roof at seven months when she became concerned about their welfare and what she feared was a plan to spirit Angella out of the country.

When they reached school-going age, the two sisters were enrolled at Mbagathi Primary School.

Back at the Loreto Convent, Joe Karanja had been hired as the school team tennis coach.

Her development coach Karani recalled how she took Okutoyi when she was four years old and helped her through the ranks.

“I knew Okutoyi when she was four years old. She used to come to the courts on an empty stomach. Regular meals were quite foreign to her. I did not know about this at first because she was a silent one alongside her twin sister, Asumwa Roselida,” said Karani.

“After finding out her predicament, I decided to chip in every time I could, just to help with the matter. I could support them and their grandmother who, looked after them. She is a strong player because to play on an empty stomach and win, is just tough,” said Karani.

Karani, who runs a tennis foundation in Nairobi, said Okutoyi has the potential to play in the senior Grand Slams, if she gets sponsorships to play in major tournaments.

Karani has mentored top players before, including Rhoda Chebet who went to Florida, Damaris Museri in South Africa and Abigail Tatehart.

 Angela in action. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Meanwhile, there will be little time to rest for tennis sensation Angella Okutoyi.

After becoming the first Kenyan to win a major Grand Slam trophy this month, Okutoyi has set her eyes on winning the upcoming US Open juniors singles title after her recent doubles feat in England.

Okutoyi believes she is stronger mentally and believes she can also win the singles title.

“Winning the doubles title without earlier planning was an eye opener for me. I mean, I headed into the tournament without a partner and met up with Nijkamp via Instagram, set up a team and ended up winning.”

“I also took advice from (Ferdinand) Omanyala who told me to give my all, whenever I am on the court. I believe I can do it, come the US Open and bring home the singles title too,” said a delighted Okutoyi.

The Kenya top seed has achieved so much, yet she is just 18 years and far from her prime years in her career.

She also urged the government to invest more in tennis given that she has endured a host of challenges to reach where she is today.

“Kenya is known for athletics globally and I respect that, but we have to give a chance to not only tennis, but also other sports out there. I am living proof that we can do it in tennis too. The government should remember other sports too when it comes to funding because if I can do it, many others can,” Okutoyi said.


Related Topics


Trending Now


Popular this week