Kenya's tennis star records historic win in Australian Open

Anjela Okutoyi in past action in the ITF World Tennis Tour U18 Championships. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In the past three decades, we have seen a new generation of stars in women’s tennis succeed on the big world stage.

From the likes of Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu, to British sensation Emma Raducanu, many have risen to win several Grand Slam titles.

Back home, teenage sensation Angela Okutoyi has risen to be a star at a young age, conquering both Kenya and Africa in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments.

In 2018, she became the youngest player to win the Kenya Open, then aged 14, after upsetting experienced three-time former champion Shufaa Changawa 6-1, 7-6 at Nairobi Club.

In the same year, she won the Africa Junior Championship on Clay Court (AJCCC) Under 14 singles held in Algeria before following it up with singles and doubles triumphs at the ITF East African Under 18 Junior Circuit, ITF Nairobi Junior Open and Eastern Africa Zonal Championships Under 16 in 2019.

Last year stands out as Okutoyi's memorable season as she was crowned the 2021 Africa Junior Champion.

Seeded second in Africa, Okutoyi swept aside top seed Aya El Aouni (126) of Morroco 6-3, 6-3 to be crowned the winner in the final played in Sousse, Tunisia.

Winning the African junior title saw her reach new heights.

Ranked 60th in the latest International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior rankings announced on January 3, which is her new career-high, Okutoyi yesterday made her debut at the Australian Junior Open Championship.

The Kenyan had a dream debut at the Australian Junior Open Championship after serving off to victory in the main draw of girls singles.

The African U18 champion floored Federica Urgesi of Italy 2-1 at Melbourne Park to sail through to the second round.

Okutoyi, who is the second Kenyan to play at the Australian Open after Paul Wekesa, was off to a flying start as she bagged the first set 6-4 before surrendering in the subsequent one that ended 7-6 in favour of the Italian.

She proceeded to sweep Urgesi 6-3 in the final set to emerge victorious in a match that lasted two hours, 13 minutes.

In a statement by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) on their official Twitter account, the association said the Kenyan teenager made history by becoming the first Kenyan woman to win a match in the Grand Slam Juniors tournament.

Okutoyi said she is positive about doing well in Melbourne.

“I went on court with a positive mind and I am glad that despite a tough start to the game, I was able to fight my way back and win,” Okutoyi said in a post-game interview.

Okutoyi will now face Zara Larke of Australia.

The Australian knocked out seventh-seeded Johanne Svendsen (14) from Sweden 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.

After the memorable win, the Ministry of Sports and other government officials took to social media to celebrate the Kenyan teenager for the exemplary show.

The Australian Open Junior Championships is back this year after the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.