Meshkatolzahra Safi and Angella Okutoyi have made history in the girls’ tournament at the Australian Open.
Safi became the first Iranian to win a match at a girls’ event at a Grand Slam, defeating Australia’s Anja Nayar 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the tournament.
The 17-year-old, who is currently world number 74 in the junior rankings, is Iran’s first top-100 junior player.
“I just really want to say don’t give up on your dreams because when I started my journey, everybody in Iran was saying, ‘this is impossible, playing Grand Slams is impossible, you cannot do that’. Especially to my mum,” Safi told The National.
“So I didn’t say my dream to anyone anymore and I just kept pushing.”
Safi also became the first tennis player to compete in a hijab at a Grand Slam, despite the blazing heat in Melbourne.
“I love the sun, but not this much,” Safi joked. “But I’m used to this hijab and this covering. This is part of me now because I was playing with this since I was nine until today, in any tours, in any weather, cold or hot. I’m used to it.
“Of course I feel the heat, today was really, really difficult, especially between the points, but it doesn’t bother me. When you go to the match, when you play point by point, you don’t think about these things anymore.”
Okutoyi also made history yesterday, becoming the first ever Kenyan girl to win a Grand Slam juniors match.
The 18-year-old, ranked 60th in the junior rankings, overcame Italy’s Federica Urgesi 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.
“Being able to take part in a championship such as the Grand Slam is quite a dream,” she said. “It’s quite an experience because it only comes once a year. I am very happy and proud to be where I am.”
Safi and Okutoyi have been congratulated by a range of stars, including tennis legend Billie Jean King.
“History was made at the Australian Open,” she wrote. “Cheers to Meshkatolzahra Safi from Iran & Angella Okutoyi from Kenya on both becoming the first girls from their respective countries to win a Grand Slam juniors match!
“Love watching our sport grow across the globe.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters wrote “This is the best news coming out of Melbourne!”, while Judy Murray, Scottish tennis coach and the mother of Jamie and Andy Murray, posted: “Love this. Great to see.”