Angela Okutoyi urges government to invest more in tennis

Angella Okutoyi (left) with her grandmother at JKIA, on Monday night. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

There will be little time to rest for tennis sensation Angela Okutoyi.

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

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

Speaking to Standard Sports on Monday night after she arrived from London, the 18-year-old said 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 advise 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.

Okutoyi has taken Kenyan tennis to new heights and is currently punching way above her class. She stands among the best in the global junior tennis competitions.

In the past two years, Okutoyi has risen to be a star at a young age, conquering both Kenya, Africa and now the world in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments.

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 other can,” Okutoyi said.

CS Sports Amina Mohammed and NOC-K secretary general Francis Mutuku (right )receiving Angela Okutoyi on arrival at JKIA on Monday night after she became the first Kenyan to win a Grand Slam title when she teamed up with Dutch's Rose Nijkamp to clinch the Wimbledon Junior Tennis doubles title. July 11, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

At the beginning of the year, Okutoyi captured the imagination of a 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 was at it yet again, this time progressing to the second round of the JA Roland Garros (French Open Juniors).

The former Africa Under-18 champion became the first Kenyan 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.

Last Saturday, she crowned it all to become the first Kenyan to win a major Grand Slam trophy.

Her development coach Joe 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 a potential of playing 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.


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