Angela Okutoyi: Meet The First Ever Kenyan To Win A Grandslam At Wimbledon

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Angela Okutoyi: The First Ever Kenyan To Win A Grandslam At Wimbledon
File image of Kenyan tennis player Angela Okutoyi. |Photo| Courtesy|

Angela Okutoyi is a multi-time tennis champion who made history by becoming the first Kenyan ever to win a Grandslam at Wimbledon. She also made history by becoming the first Kenyan to compete in the Australian Open.

The tennis prodigy has won the hearts of many, winning both at local and international stages.

Despite the fame she currently enjoys thanks to her talent, Angela has been through a lot of hardships in her life. Here is her story as told by WoK.

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Background & Education

Angela was born on January 29, 2004, at Pumwani Maternity Hospital and orphaned at birth. Together with her twin sister Roselida Asumwa, they never saw their mother who died during their birth.

They were taken in by their grandmother, Mary Nkonda, who gave Angela her name. She named her Okutoyi after her grandfather.

Angela Okutoyi: The First Ever Kenyan To Win A Grandslam At Wimbledon
File image of Kenyan tennis player Angela Okutoyi. |Photo| Courtesy|

At the time of their birth, her grandmother worked as a cook at Loreto Convent, and they lived in a small house in the servant quarters. She later gave them up to an orphanage in Limuru but went back for them after seven months. She had feared that there was a plan to take them out of the country.

Mary enrolled the two sisters at Mbagathi Primary School when they were of school-going age. In the evening, they would go by the tennis courts at Loreto Convent where Joe Karanja was the school tennis team coach at the time.

“We started with nothing, she (grandmother) had four jobs to keep me on the pitch, at one time we slept on the couch. For a family with no money, we may have looked and sounded crazy. Children would laugh at us, call us names, we became the joke,but we kept our heads down. We did our fighting with actions on track,” Angela told The Standard during a past interview.

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Tennis career

While enjoying the free snacks and food Karanja gave to the tennis team after practice, Angela developed a passion for the game and became good at it.

“I come from a humble background. Growing up, I was heavily into sports like cricket and tennis and my grandmother and coach were very supportive, but I knew deep down the expenses were a lot for them to manage,” she said.

Angela was gifted, so she would train with players older than her. This enabled her to sharpen her skills even faster from an early age.

“When you are six and play with eight-year-olds, you’re lacking the physicality. Okutoyi didn’t have easy sessions with me. She was always in competition and always had to fight to win, so I think her mentality was suitable for tennis from the beginning,” Karanja was quoted by the Standard as saying.

Angela Okutoyi: The First Ever Kenyan To Win A Grandslam At Wimbledon
File image of Kenyan tennis player Angela Okutoyi and Dutch teammate, Rose Marie. |Photo| Courtesy|

By the time she was nine, Angela had become very talented, setting the stage for her international break. She was enrolled at the ITF East Africa Regional Training Centre in Burundi at the age of 10 in 2014. That same year, she made her international debut at the East Africa Zonal Championships where she was the runners-up.

Civil unrest in Burundi forced her to return to Kenya in 2016 and joined ITF Training Centre at Nairobi Club.

By focusing on her tennis career, Angela lagged behind academically and had to recover the lost time by enrolling in for online classes at Penn Foster; an online programme based in the USA and EdOptions, a virtual form of learning.

The 18-year-old grew up admiring legendary American tennis player Serena Williams.

“Serena Williams’s story is inspiring. What she has achieved throughout her career is unbelievable. Her determination and hard work year in year out is what keeps me going.”

Growing up poor, the tough conditions inspired Angela to work harder at getting better in tennis.

“As a child, I have slept hungry for consecutive nights and depended on goodwill from my coach Joe, so I know what it’s like to not have any money. I didn’t have proper tennis gear, I used to borrow old stuff from others,” Angela said.

Though she is now the darling of Kenyan tennis, her sister, Asumwa is also a tennis queen and is among the best in the country. She boasts an under-14 girls’ doubles title which she won at the ITF/CAT East African Junior championship in 2017.

She also won the 2018 Kenya Open under-14 and under 18 doubles as well as the 2020 ITF East African Junior Championship doubles.

Angela Okutoyi: The First Ever Kenyan To Win A Grandslam At Wimbledon
File image of Kenyan tennis player Angela Okutoyi and Dutch teammate, Rose Marie. |Photo| Courtesy|

Making History

At the 2022 Australian Open, Angela became the first Kenyan girl to win an Australian Open juniors match and the first to go past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament. She finished third.

“This can be a springboard for me. If I just came to enjoy it, next time I am going to win and I believe I can do it,” she said after the tournament.

On Friday, July 8, Angela made history by becoming the first Kenyan to advance to the Wimbledon finals. She was competing in the women’s junior doubles with Rose Marie Nijkamp of the Netherlands.

on Saturday, July 9, the duo won the doubles Junior Championships final at Wimbledon beating the Canadian team of Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko.

“The match was interesting but not easy at all. However, my partner and I really fought through it. We were losing it but we kept calm and strong and that’s how we got the win,” Angela lauded Rose Marie after their semi-final win over Dominika Salkova and Linda Klimovicova of the Czech Republic.

“She’s good. I mean we have a good connection when we’re playing and I like that we bond so well and play quite good together,” she added.

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