Her towering figure stands out whenever she is on court. Never mind her athleticism, fitness and energy all this for a 39-year-old.
That is what you immediately notice when you meet Evelyn Akech Otula, arguably Kenya’s most successful and experienced female tennis player.
Homa Bay born Otula began her love affair with tennis as a student at Butere Girls High School, Kakamega county.
”When I was 13, the bug bit me and I slowly got involved with the team right from Form One,” says Otula, adding that her interest grew due to the influence of her elder brother Washington Otula, a former national team player and top Strathmore star.
”He sort of endeared me into sports aside from the fact that I loved competing in tennis,” adds Otula who was invited for national tournaments in her final year in High School before making her debut in 1992 while at Kenyatta University where she was studying Education and French.
Her performances caught the eyes of many and that opened doors as she went on to feature in the Nanyuki, Kisumu and Eldoret Open Championships that elevated her status.
The second born in a family of eight, Otula comes from a sporting family. Her uncle Paul Otula, the Masena School principal is a famous basketball coach and also chairman of the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF). Brothers Paul, Richard and Edwin have all had stints with Strathmore Tigers basketball team while another brother Joseph, currently plays for the University of Nairobi Terror.
”I am happy with my family connections to sports. It is quite fulfilling. I definitely owe it to them especially my late Dad who encouraged me a lot,” remembers Otula.
Otula, the 2005 Kenya Lawn Tennis Association (KLTA) woman Player-of-the-Year has a remarkable CV spanning 17 years in the game.
She has represented Kenya in the regional International Tennis Federation (ITF) Money Circuit series a tournament she has won 10 times and also did duty for the country in the 2007 and 2011 All Africa Games in Algeria and Mozambique respectively, finishing fourth.
Having represented the country in the Euro/Africa Fed Cup five times, she was part of the squad that recorded a historic 3-0 win over Cyprus in Turkey last year.
With over 25 titles to her name, Otula’s achievements reads. Most total wins: 3-21, most doubles win: 2-8, best doubles team—Otula/Florence Mbugua: 1-4, Caroline Oduor/Otula: 1-3, most ties played: 19, most years played: Five. She won the Tennis Player of the Year Award from 2004-2008 and received three nominations for the Sport Women Eve Awards in 2007.
Married to Thomas Mboya, an elite sports instructor, Otula is currently a Junior Tennis Initiative Instructor with the KLTA and also an ITF Level One coach.
”Tom is understanding and given we are in the same line, the support has been enormous,” adds the self-sponsored Otula who also doubles up as a freelance french interpreter.
She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Physical Education and Health at the Kenyatta University. Her parting shot: ”Passion and discipline is everything and I can only encourage any serious athlete to have it.”