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Cheruto: From slums to the top of Africa

Last updated 6 months ago | By Washington Onyango

Kenya Open under-14 defending champion Cynthia Cheruto in action during a past match. [Washington Onyango,Standard]

She is keen to stage a comeback after Covid-19 pandemic

The 15-year-old high school student beat all odds to scale the continent’s heights of fame.

Her slender looks and the swift swings on the courts offer a spectacular sight.

And Cynthia Cheruto is a gifted tennis player who dismisses opponents in local and international tournaments without breaking a sweat. The 15-year-old girl is simply a talent in several fronts.

In the last seven years, Cheruto has produced remarkable performance in Kenya, Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) competitions.

Apart from winning the Star Challenge under-14 championship last year, she also won the under-14 Kenya Open and ITF/CAT East African Junior championship in Tanzania in 2018.

In 2016, she made her international debut in Morocco where he finished fourth in under-14 singles before her second outing in Egypt the same year, where she won a bronze medal.

The highlight of her journey to stardom came in 2018 when she won gold at the ITF/CAT East African Junior championship in Tanzania. She also 2018 Kenya Open under 14 category in singles and doubles.

“Winning the Kenya Open was a milestone for me even if it was in the junior category. It motivates me while in the court,” Cheruto, whose father was a footballer and mother a runner, said.

Last year, she won the Star Challenge under-14 tournament and reached semi finals of the International Tennis Federation Juniors event at Nairobi Club before taking part in ITF Algeria and South Africa Junior championships.

Senior debut

She also put her young muscles to test in a senior competition at the Women’s Futures championship where she reached the quarterfinals, a feat she longs to beat when she makes her senior debut this year.

“I can’t wait to play in senior events. Though I am still young, I believe I have what it takes to compete,” she said.

Cheruto, a student at Mbagathi Road Secondary School, hopes to attain a top 100 ITF ranking. She is currently ranked 2279 in the world junior ITF rankings.

She is keen on stepping out of the shadows of her role model and Kenya seed one Angela Okutoyi. As a Kenya tennis seed five, Cheruto has huge ambitions -- to take part in French Open, USA Open and Australia Open.

“Okutoyi is my role model. What she has achieved in her career is unbelievable. Her determination and hard work inspires me,” Cheruto said, adding that her role model is former World number one Serena Williams.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, she has a training regimen that she adheres to everyday to keep fit.

“I was 10 years old when I heard of tennis. Some organisation came to Kibra offering opportunities to children. I gave it a try and gradually I fell in love with the sport because it kept me busy and away from the streets,” she said.

Veronica Osogo, who is her coach, said Cheruto has a bright future in tennis. “Cheruto is a hard-working player. Even with the challenges she faces, tennis has made her focus,” she said.

Born and raised in Kibra, Cheruto started playing tennis while in Standard Four at Shadrack Kimalel Primary School.

Living in a place where lack of food and proper shelter were the order of the day, Osogo said tennis gave Cheruto solace from squalid lifestyle.

It was at Shadrack Kimalel Primary School that she stormed into the world stage. “I have been carrying out tennis programmes at the school since 2007 and when I saw Cheruto play, I knew at that time she was talented,” she said.

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