Kenyan Angela Okutoyi off to flying start in Australian Open

Kenya’s Angela Okutoyi Sunday made an impressive debut at the Australian Open Junior championships with a hard-earned 2-1 win over Federica Urgesi in the main draw of the Girls Singles.

The Africa Under-18 champion, who is making her debut at the Australian Open, defeated her tough Italian opponent Federica Urgesi by 2-1 sets of 6-4, 7-6 and 6-3 in two hours and 13 minutes at the Melbourne Park.

“The match was not easy but I went on court with a positive mind and I fought from the first point till the last. It means that l can do it. All Kenyans can with the right support and it gives me a good start ahead in the next match because I am super confident now,” said Okutoyi who started the match on a wrong-footing after making three backhand forced errors and an unforced error in game one before recovering to win the set 6-4.

Okutoyi, who is ranked 62nd in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Rankings, started the second set brightly, winning the first two games but it turned to be a seesaw after Urgesi leveled at 2-2 and lost it 7-6 after two back-to-back errors with her backhand and then forehand.

The 2018 Kenya Open champion gave her all in the third set to claim a famous victory against the 16-year-old Urgesi who is ranked 2,137 in the world.

Urgesi booked her place in the main draw after ousting her higher ranked opponents Chloe Shwarz (1,076th) and Stefani Webb (373rd) from Australia in straight sets in the first two rounds of the Girls’ Singles Qualifying.

Okutoyi has been receiving messages of encouragement from Kenyans among them Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala and Commonwealth Games Flyweight bronze medalist Christine Ongare.

She will face Zara Larke (263rd) from Australia who shocked seventh-seeded Johanne Svendsen (14) from Sweden 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.

The Australian Open Junior Championships is back in 2022 after the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions into Australia.

The last event in 2020 saw Andorra’s Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva and France’s Harold Mayot crowned champions.

Jimenez Kasintseva won the Australian Open girls’ title on her Junior Grand Slam debut aged just 14, defeating Poland’s Weronika Baszak 5-7 6-2 6-2 to become the youngest junior Grand Slam champion since Coco Gauff at 2018 Roland Garros.

Mayot also won his first Junior Grand Slam title in the boys’ singles event, defeating fellow Frenchman Arthur Cazaux 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena in the first all-French junior boys’ final at a major since the 2004 Australian Open.

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