18-year-old Kenyan tennis player, Angella Okutoyi is set to take over tennis. This year, the 18 years old became the first Kenyan in history to win a Wimbledon title.
On January 29, 2004, Kenya saw the birth of Angella Okutoyi. After their mother passed away during delivery, she and her twin sister Roselida were both raised by their grandmother Mary. Before being raised by their grandmother, Angella and her sister spent time in a Nairobi orphanage.
When she was approximately four years old, she started playing tennis, and in 2020, she made her ITF junior circuit debut.
“I loved it [tennis] from the first go,” said Okutoyi. “I knew this is my sport. It has been really hard. Growing up wasn’t the easiest for me. Sometimes we had to sleep without eating. It really strengthened me.”
While training at Loreto Convent Valley Road, a primary school in Nairobi, with trainers Joe Karanja and Allan Atola as a young player, Angella showed some potential. “She came to me at four years old and the first lesson I gave her was the ability to focus,” said Atola. “Even though the racket was almost as big as her, I had her take the ball right off the bounce and she did it so easily, it was innate timing. You can teach people timing, but it can be hard to take in.”
When she was ten years old, Angella received a tennis scholarship and enrolled at the ITF East Africa Regional Training Centre in Burundi. That same year, in the East Africa Zonal Championships, she made her international debut. Angella claims that Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and former world number one Serena Williams are two of her primary tennis role models.
“Serena Williams’s story is inspiring. What she has achieved throughout her career is unbelievable. Her determination and hard work year in and year out is what keeps me going,” said Angella.
“To play at the Australian Open, US Open or Wimbledon will be a milestone for me and I am working really hard to achieve this. Furthermore, I would love to be among the top 100 ranked players in the ITF,” she said.
In 2018, at the age of 14, she defeated three-time defending champion Shufaa Changawa 6-1 7-6 at Nairobi Club to become the youngest player to win the Kenya Open. She competed in her first junior grand slam singles match at the Australian Open in January 2022. In the third round of the junior Australian Open, Angella was defeated by Serbian player Lola Radivojevic. She became the first woman from Kenya to advance to the third round of a major slam with her run to the third round in Melbourne.
Angella and Rose Marie Nijkamp won the girls’ doubles title at Wimbledon despite never having played on a grass court before the summer of 2022. To win the championship, the team defeated Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko of Canada 3-6, 6-4, 11-9. Thus, Angella became the first Kenyan woman to win a Wimbledon championship.
“It’s great for me to be the first Kenyan to win a Grand Slam and to reach a final in a Grand Slam,” Okutoyi told BBC Sport Africa after the win. “I’m now able to inspire most players from Kenya and Africa. I’m able to put a belief in them that they can also achieve it.
“It doesn’t matter the background you come from or where you’ve been, it’s just the belief and the dream that you can achieve it. Now I believe that we’ll have more Kenyans here for sure.”
As of July 2022, Angella had a career-high junior ranking of 53 in the world.