The frontpage of Saturday’s headline was centred around the Wimbledon women’s singles final between Elena Rybakina and Ons Jabeur, and rightly so. Both players were contesting a Grand Slam final for the first time. And in the fortnight, the two players had become tennis stalwarts for their respective countries. Neither a Kazakh nor a Tunisian had appeared in this stage of a Major before.
Rybakina completed a stunning comeback to defeat the second-seeded Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2. But it wasn’t just the six-footer from Kazakhstan who was garnishing her fairytale run with a trophy as a first-ever Grand Slam champion from her country. Jabeur fell short in her quest to become the champion, but the African continent did have something to smile about.
History has been made 🇰🇪!
— ITF (@ITFTennis) July 9, 2022
Okutoyi wins the Juniors Doubles title at Wimbledon
Moments earlier, 18-year-old Kenyan, Angela Okutoyi, joined the rolling parade of first-time winners on Saturday. She hoisted the Wimbledon juniors doubles title alongside Rose Marie Nijkamp.
Okutoyi and her Dutch partner recovered from losing the first set 6-3. They fought back before triumphing in a tense final-set tiebreak 11-9 against the Canadian duo of Victoria Mboko and Kayla Cross, staving off a match point in the process.
For a country that prides itself in producing the most extraordinary track and field athletes, Kenya has unearthed a tennis gem at the 2022 Wimbledon Junior Championships.
— Angella Okutoyi (@Okutoyiangella2) July 9, 2022
The East African nation has accumulated precisely 113 medals at the Olympic games, spread across Athletics and Boxing. Moreover, the history books have long embraced Kenyan marathoners and sprinters.
Tennis, meanwhile, is outpaced in terms of popularity in a country with over 50 million inhabitants. But this latest success is likely to generate widespread interest in following the sport.
Tennis and golf, to a large extent, have been categorized as the sport for the rich in Kenya. For instance, there has been very little investment done to finance the construction of public courts for posterity. Reliance on sports clubs has hindered most young players’ development and progress. This is so because most of them were shut down entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Grass courts in particular are non existent. And for Okutoyi, she was in unchartered territory at the All England Club having never played on the surface before last week.
Okutoyi Made History at the Australian Open
But tennis history, both major and minor, is what Grand Slams are all about. In January, Okutoyi was the talk of town back in her home country. She became the first Kenyan girl to win a Grand Slam juniors match.
Okutoyi, ranked 62 in the ITF junior rankings at the time, upset Italy’s Federica Urgesi 6-4 6-7 6-3 in the first round. And she ticked off another milestone win in another three-setter against home favorite Zara Larke to reach the third round.
This was an unaccustomed appearance for a Kenyan tennis player making waves in one of the most prestigious junior tournaments in the world. But for people who have taken a keen interest on the 18-year-old, this has not come as a shock one bit.
Okutoyi is now trending in each of Kenya’s news outlets with outpouring praise. Will this be the first of many for the unheralded 18-year-old?