Hail the new tennis Kenya Open singles champion

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Which Kenyan sportspeople do you follow most?
Africa and Commonwealth Games 100 metres champion Ferdinand Omanyala and Wimbledon Junior Doubles champion Angella Okutoyi. It’s great to see a Kenyan doing so well on the global stage. It motivates the young ones to work harder and motivates other athletes from Africa to double their efforts. I used to play in the same tournaments with Angella when we were young – the Under 12s, U14s, U16s and U18s. We are basically the same age, so it is great to see her doing so well and hopefully she can continue with the upward trajectory.

You have played many matches since you began your journey. Which was your toughest and best games?
The most difficult match I have ever played was against Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz five years ago at an U14 European Tour tournament in Barcelona. He is ranked first in the world right now. We met in the first round of the main draw and he thrashed me in the game. It is great to see how he has developed over the years. I have played a few great matches, most recently beating Nigerian David Ekpenyong during the 2023 Davis Cup in Rwanda. I played really well to give Kenya the lead in the singles (1-0). Unfortunately, in the promotional play-off, we ended up losing 2-1.

What is the worst that has happened to you in your tennis career?
At the beginning of 2020 I had an injury on my left wrist which required surgery. That was a setback because it was in my last year of U18 ITFs. I was out for five months. I couldn’t do anything. I’m happy the surgery paid off. It was worth the wait. Even during that period I never thought of quitting tennis.

How do you balance between your studies and the game?
When I was 13, I moved to Emilio Sanchez Tennis Academy in Barcelona. This helped with my development. I used to study and play at the same place which made it easier for me to juggle between the two, rather than here in Nairobi where I had to go from Aga Khan school where I was studying to a tennis club, play one hour or one and a half hours of tennis, and then go home. In Barcelona, everything was in one place. The school and the tennis academy worked together. I would train for three hours a day on the courts and do one hour of fitness training. The transition from Kenya to Barcelona was not easy, but it helped me become the person I am today.

My parents supported me to go and stay in Barcelona for five years. Hopefully, when they see me playing at the 2023 Kenya Open  they will believe in me even more. That will be the first time I will be playing before them since I was 13.

Is there someone you look up to in tennis?
My role model is Serbian Novak Djokovic. He has won everything in tennis and is arguably the best player in the world. Even though we have different playing styles, I admire his fighting spirit and his determination to win games. Obviously, reaching the heights he has scaled will be hard, but my goal is to be like him. I’m training hard every day, in college and here at home and I hope the sacrifice will pay off someday.

What benefits have you reaped from tennis?
I have travelled a lot and experienced many different cultures, which has made me grow an individual. Moving to Spain at age 13 was not easy, especially the fact that I had to stay away from my family. I have since grown to be more independent.

Additionally, I won some money at the Kenya Open, but I have not really decided how to spend it.

Tell us about playing tennis in the US. What do you like best?
I am really enjoying my stay. Fighting for a team when the whole team is cheering you on, or supporting a team-mate on court is very exciting. I have been at Denison University for one year, so there are still three more years to go. It is great to learn different cultures, play with people from different backgrounds and compete among peers. What I don’t like about the US is that everything is set really far apart. It is a big country, so it takes time to get from one place to another. It is also really far. Travelling there from Kenya takes about 25 hours. 

What advice would you give an aspiring Kenyan tennis player?
Work hard, follow your dreams and don’t let anything come in your way. Even if someone says something to discourage you, stay focused and take the good advice.

Credit TO Owner