Kenyan tennis star, Angella Okutoyi, opened up about her humble beginnings and her ambitions to conquer the world of tennis.
She put Kenya on the global map and wrote history consecutively when she became the first Kenyan woman to win the girl’s junior World Slam match in the Australian Open.
She also became the first Kenyan to win the Grand Slam title at a girl’s junior Wimbledon event.
But little is known about Okutoyi’s struggles while growing up. Here is her story by YEA:
Angella Okutoyi was born on 29th January 2004. Her mother tragically passed away during childbirth.
Okutoyi and her younger sister Rosalinda Asumwa were raised by their grandmother Mary Donya at an orphanage. She says that at the orphanage, she could not even afford meals.
After winning the Wimbledon juniors, Okutoyi had this to say about her mother.
“She will be over the moon, she will be so happy for sure,” she said.
“She will be so happy and I’m happy that I can put a smile on her face.”
Growing up, Okutoyi would always play fixtures at Nairobi Club with her grandmother on the courtside.
“I have been doing some interviews but I usually don’t mention four people who are really important in my life. One of them is my grandmother Mary Donya,” she said.
“I want to say thank you so much because without her, maybe I wouldn’t be in Kenya or I wouldn’t even have known the sport tennis because back when we were young.”
“I was in the orphanage and she really struggled so much to take care of me,” Okutoyi remarked.
Angella Okutoyi’s sister is also a tennis sensation currently playing ITF fixtures and local tournaments.
Angella Okutoyi became the first Kenyan to win the Wimbledon alongside Dutch partner Rose Marie Nijkamp.
The pair beat Canadians Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko, 3-6, 6-4,11-9.
Humbled, Okutoyi disclosed that she had never played on a grass tennis surface until the tournament started.
Despite her lack of experience with the grass, Okutoyi was confident on getting more and more comfortable with the surface.
“This is my first time in Wimbledon and now I’m starting to love grass,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter about the surface – just the belief you have in yourself, you can play on any surface. So yeah, I’m happy to play on grass for sure.”
Angella Okutoyi played a remarkable tournament at Wimbledon.
“Ever since I was a kid, my goal was to see myself playing at the big stages, win as many Grand Slams as possible and be the first Kenyan to be in a Grand Slam,” she said.
“So for me, I believe that that’s going to happen,” she remarks, adding that her grandmother is her drive to perform to her best in the future.
After winning Wimbledon, Okutoyi said that it had never crossed her mind that she would create such impressive career milestones and make Kenyans proud of her despite growing up in hardship.
“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.”
Angella Okutoyi’s role model is Tunisia’s tennis player Ons Jabeur.
Jabeur became the first Arab player and the first African woman in the open era to reach a Grand Slam final.
“She’s an inspiration to Africa, to the Arab world and to Tunisia. She has a great personality and has inspired a lot of people. I hope to be like her one day,” said Okutoyi.
Like Jabeur with her feats and desire to see improvements in the sport in her home nation, Okutoyi hopes her title success at Wimbledon will help boost the popularity of tennis in Kenya.
She acknowledged that tennis is an undermined sport in the Kenyan fields, as most sports are Athletics based.
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She says that most Tennis players in Kenya, like herself, don’t come from well-off families. She, however, encourages all players to continue with the belief and fighting spirit.
“Nothing is impossible, I have reached here and they can also make it. They just need to be determined and trust the people around them, be focused, and do what’s right,” Okutoyi stated.
“Now that I’ve been able to win this, most people will now recognize that players from Kenya can do this. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to do for my country.
Angella Okutoyi has a conviction that she keeps at heart.
“I have a philosophy and it is that a negative mind will never give you a positive life – that’s all I usually say when I want to inspire young kids. They just have to believe in themselves more than anything else.”