Okutoyi battles for last shot at Paris Olympics

Angela tennis Okutoyi

Kenya’s top player Angella Okutoyi celebrates a point against Egypt’s Mayar Sherif during their 2023 African Games tennis women’s singles semi-final match at Bortyeman Sports Complex in Accra

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The Kenyan needs to get into the top 400 by June 10 to qualify for the Olympics.
  • Okutoyi has her work cut out as she must make it to the final of the two events.

African Games women’s singles tennis champion, Angella Okutoyi, starts her last lap of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on Tuesday with two tournaments lined up on the hard courts of Tennis Club A.S. Marsa in La Marsa, Tunisia.

Okutoyi, who is up six places to 496 in the latest WTA singles rankings, is in the main draw in the W35 La Marsa tournament and will face Georgian fourth-seeded Mariam Bolkvadze (329) in the first round.

The Kenyan needs to get into the top 400 by June 10 to qualify for her first Summer Games set for July 26 to August 11 in the French capital.

The Auburn University second-year student currently has 109 points. To get into the Olympic qualification bracket, Okutoyi must get not less than 50 points from this week’s  W35 La Marsa tournament, and the W50 La Marsa tournament from June 3-9.

ITF requirements

“I don’t have much to say at the moment, but I’d like Kenyans to put me in prayers as I head to these two tournaments,” Okutoyi, 20, told Nation Sport yesterday.

In a women's pro tennis tournament of W35 level with 16 players in the main draw, one gets four points for reaching Round 16, eight in the quarter-final, 14 in the semi-final, 23 in the final, and 35 for clinching the title.

The W50 tournament with 32 players in the main draw sees one collecting one point in the Round of 32, six in the Round of 16, 11 in the quarter-final, 20 in the semi-final, 33 in the final, and 50 for winning the crown.

This means Okutoyi has her work cut out as she must make it to the final of the two events to meet the International Tennis Federation (ITF) requirements for players ranked outside the Top 400, who are also champions in their continents.

Anything less than a final could end her hopes of becoming the first-ever Kenyan to compete in tennis at the Olympics.

First-round bye

She placed herself in the race for the Paris 2024 Olympics by winning the African Games in March in Accra, Ghana.

Enroute to the title, she got a first-round bye and then saw off Zambian Naomi Chileshe 6-3, 6-1 (Round of 32), Egyptian Merna Refaat 6-3, 6-3 (Round of 16), Moroccan Aya El Aouni 6-4, 6-4 (quarter-final), Egyptian Mayar Sherif 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (semi-final) and Lamis Alhussein from Egypt 6-4, 6-2 (final).

Beating Sherif, who was ranked 70th globally at the time, was Okutoyi’s first-ever victory over a player ranked in the Top 100.

Sheriff, who won bronze at the African Games, is currently ranked 72nd after dropping 19 places in the latest rankings after losing 2-0 to American Peyton Stearns in the Morocco Open final in Rabat on May 25.

The top 56 players in the world qualify directly for the Olympics.