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Youngster Okutoyi stuns Shufaa to clinch Kenya Open title

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Junior prodigy Angela Okutoyi is the new Britam Kenya Open Tennis Championships women’s champion.

The 14-year-old Okutoyi displayed her agility and raw talent, punishing experienced three times former champion Shufaa Changawa with well executed strokes for straight sets victory of 6-1, 7-6 at the Nairobi Club.

The cracking final that saw Okutoyi follow up her ITF Under-18 and Africa Under-14 victories with her maiden senior major as Shufaa failed in her bid for the fourth title, lasted for one-and-half hours.

The last set took one hour as top seeded Shufaa, the 2011, 2014 and 2016 champion, battled in vain in her efforts to force  a third set.

Okutoyi, who became the youngest ever Kenya Open champion after Sada Nahimana in 2015, hopes that her victory will inspire other upcoming players to aim higher. Sada was also 14 when she won.

“I was not under any pressure to win after having won the Africa Under-14 title in Algeria the previous weekend,” said Okutoyi, who got almost 90 per cent of her first serves against Shufaa’s 63 per cent in both sets.  “I want to thank all those who encouraged me and believed in me.”

Okutoyi won the ITF Under-18 tournament in Burundi in June, which saw her join the ITF World Tour team that enabled her tour France, Germany, Belgium and Czech Republic for five weeks between July and August. Okutoyi went on to win the Africa Under-14 title in Algeria last weekend.

Okutoyi, who joined the ITF Regional Centre in Burundi at the age of 10 under her current coach Francis Rogoi, now dreams of taking part in French Open, USA Open and Australia Open as a junior in the next two years.

“This is a milestone the for ITF regional centre and I am impressed by her progress,” said Rogoi. “What is more important is that she is impressed by her show and is always happy to take to the courts.”

Shufaa was in praise of Okutoyi saying she brought her “A” to the final.

“She simply played well and tore into my game plan,” said Shufaa adding that she lives to fight another day. “This is good when a youngster wins since I have been there before and I know how it feels.”

The first set that took less than 30 minutes, had no deuces with Okutoyi running away with it.

Shufaa rallied superbly from 4-2 down to level 4-4 despite a double fault in her fourth game.

Shufaa was sublime to take the lead 5-4 but suffered some two double faults as Okutoyi broke her serve to level 5-5. Shufaa broke Okutoyi’s serve to lead again 6-5 but Shufaa would suffer two double faults again as Okutoyi broke her serve with crispy backhand  to level 6-6.

Two double faults in the tie-break was Shufaa’s main undoing as Okutoyi placed the ball at the edge to pin the sluggish Shufaa.