Okutoyi floors American opponents, to keep Paris Olympics dream alive

Angella Okutoyi

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

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • In her first match, Okutoyi fought hard for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against Csilla Fodor.
  • Up next for Okutoyi is the 26-year-old Swedish player Kajsa Rinaldo Persson.

Angella Okutoyi kept her Paris 2024 Olympic dream alive after storming the quarter-finals of the W35 Bethany Beach tournament in Delaware on Thursday night.

The African Games women's singles tennis champion staged two great comebacks in the first two rounds against Americans Csilla Fodor and Ashton Bowers.

In her first match against Fodor, Okutoyi earned a hard-earned 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win against the American qualifier on the clay courts of Sea Colony Tennis.

The 20-year-old Auburn University student Okutoyi, who withdrew from W75 Zephyrhills in Florida last week due to exhaustion, outwitted Fodor, 22, in two hours and 55 minutes in the $25,000 women’s pro tournament.

After losing the first set, Okutoyi came out guns blazing in the second set, racing to 4-0 lead while enjoying winning breakpoints in the first and the third game and registering an ace in the second game.

She managed to stay ahead even when Fodor cut the deficit at 4-1 and 5-2 to level the sets one-all.

It looked as if Okutoyi would have an easy job in the third set after going 2-0 up, but she was made to sweat after Fodor won back-to-back games to plug the gap at 2-2 and then at 4-4.

However, she did not give the American the chance to turn the tide after clinching two consecutive games.

In the round of 16, Okutoyi came on against Bowers 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and three minutes.

Before facing Okutoyi, the 18-year-old Bowers, who is ranked 768th in the world, had shocked the second-seeded fellow American Jamie Loeb, who is ranked 284th in the world, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. 

Okutoyi will now face 26-year-old Kajsa Rinaldo Persson of Sweden on Friday from 5pm Kenyan time.

Ranked 522 globally on 101 points, Okutoyi needs to chalk up crucial points at W35 Beach Beach and also at the W35 La Marsa (May 27-June 2) and W50 La Marsa (June 3-9) in Tunisia to enter the top-400 bracket by June 10, the deadline for tennis players to qualify for Paris Olympics.

American Sophie Chang occupies the 400th spot worldwide with 157 points, meaning Okutoyi must collect 60 points or more to be safe in that Olympic qualifying bracket.

Before withdrawing from W75 Zephyrhills, Okutoyi had competed in three women’s pro tournaments this year.

On January 31 she reached the semis of the W35 Naples in Florida where she lost to American Alexandra Kiick.

Okutoyi was then overpowered in the second qualifying round of W75 Charlottesville by Chang in Virginia in April before making a quarter-final exit against Kiick at the W35 Boca Raton in Florida on May 3.

Apart from the singles matches, Okutoyi is also partnering with Ukrainian national Anita Sahdileva in the doubles of the W35 Bethany Beach tournament.

On Tuesday, the pair advanced to the quarter-finals after fighting from one set down to silence the American pair of Fodor and Jane Dunyon 2-6, 6-2, 10-6.

Okutoyi and Sahdileva have set up a date with Bowers and Mia Yamakita In the quarters.

After the three tournaments, Okutoyi will return home to compete in the Billie Jean King Cup Africa Group III scheduled for June 10-16 at the Nairobi Club.