Resilient Okutoyi keeps alive Olympic dream after reaching All-African Games final

20th March 2024

The Kenyan stunned top seed and defending champion Mayar Sherif in the semis in a three-set thriller.

Angella Okutoyi. PHOTO| Joe Mburu
Angella Okutoyi. PHOTO| Joe Mburu
  • The 20-year-old needs to win gold in Ghana and be in the top 400 by 10 June to qualify for the Olympics.
  • She was ranked in position 532 before the All-African Games.
  • The USA-based player will meet sixth-seeded Egyptian Lamis Elhussein in the final.
  • Okutoyi also qualified for the Doubles final where she is partnering Cynthia Cheruto.

Kenya’s tennis prodigy Angella Okutoyi once again confirmed her status as one of the talents to watch out for as she stunned Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in a thrilling three-set match to book her place in the 2023 All-African Games final.

In the epic semifinal battle that lasted for over 4 hours and 20 minutes at the Borteyman Sports Complex in Ghana’s capital Accra, Okutoyi displayed her idiosyncratic resilience as she managed to fight from a set down as she won 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(5) against Sherif who was not only the top seed but the defending champion.

Okutoyi, who went in as the fourth seed in the tourney and 532 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, proved to be no pushover as she pulled the stunning upset over Sherif who is ranked in position 70 in the world.

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She started the match brightly as she led the first set 3-1 only to lose it 5-7.

However, that didn’t slow down the heavy-hitting player as she came from 2-5 behind to clinch the second set 7-5.

In the decisive third set, Okutoyi, who made history by becoming the first Kenyan to win a Grand Slam when she won the 2022 Wimbledon Girls Doubles title, trailed 0-3, but showed great determination.

She gave as much as she got, leveling at 3-3 and 4-4 and even took the lead 5-4 before Sherif leveled 5-5. Okutoyi fell behind 5-6, but quickly regrouped, displaying great tennis skills to level 6-6, forcing a do-or-die tiebreaker.

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It was there that Okutoyi pounced to the famous win that earned her a place in the All-African Games for the first time in her career and kept alive her dreams of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Okutoyi needs to win the gold medal in Ghana and be in the top 400 by 10 June in order to make the Olympics.

The USA-based player will meet sixth-seeded Egyptian Lamis Elhussein in the final. Elhussein (562) stunned third seed Sandra Samir (466) 6-3, 7-5 in the other semi-final match.

Elsewhere, it was double joy for Okutoyi and her partner Cynthia Cheruto as they qualified for the Doubles final after Egyptians Sherif/Elhussein gave a walkover.

The Kenyan pair had put up a strong fight in the quarter-finals on Tuesday to defeat Sierra Leone duo Sandy Sierra/Elena Asgill-Whalley 6-2, 2-6, 12-10 and reach the last four.

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