On Tuesday, Ryan Peniston beat Swiss world number 95 Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-3 6-2 at his Wimbledon debut and thus advancing him to the second round. The British wildcard is known to have dealt with a rare form of cancer as a child and had chemotherapy and surgery at the age of one.
The cancer treatment stunted Peniston’s growth as a child, but he still called it a “blessing in disguise” since overcoming the disease has given him “so much strength”.
“I didn’t start growing until …15, 16. I was always about a foot smaller than all my peers,” Peniston said.
“They all were growing and getting bigger serves and everything. I was struggling just trying to run around and get the balls.
“It made me definitely tougher as a player and a person I think. Yeah, it’s a blessing in disguise really.”
The 135th-ranked Peniston has shown magnificent form coming into the grass-court Grand Slam and reaching the quarter-finals at Eastbourne, Queen’s and Nottingham.
All this was like a dream for Peniston.
“I was chatting with my coach, Mark Taylor, like yesterday. I was kind of saying I’m waiting for someone to pinch me and wake up kind of back in May sometime,” he said.
“When I was younger, like a teenager, you always had people ask, ‘You play tennis. I’ll see you at Wimbledon one day.’ I’d always say, ‘Yeah, yeah, hopefully, hopefully.’ Now to just say it’s happened is unbelievable.”
The left-handed Peniston, who won against French Open finalist Casper Ruud during his run at Queen’s, made a break of serve in the game’s opening match, thus starting the game off perfectly. It was enough to seal the set.
Peniston saved three break points before striking again for a 4-3 lead in a crucial couple of games midway through the second set. He bought the second round within his sights with two holds of serve.
An exchange of breaks happened during the third set, which resulted in a clean victory for Peniston after making two breaks of serve. It was an impressive opening performance.
Peniston will play American Steve Johnson next, after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov pulled out due to injury. The match will happen on Thursday and Peniston doesn’t care which court he will play on.
“You could put me on the practice courts, I’d still love it,” he said.