Wimbledon: Ryan Peniston wins on debut after overcoming childhood cancer

By Sonia OxleyBBC Sport at Wimbledon
Wimbledon 2022 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

Ryan Peniston described the cancer treatment that stunted his growth as a child as a "blessing in disguise" after a dream Wimbledon debut.

The British wildcard beat Swiss world number 95 Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-3 6-2 to reach the second round on Tuesday.

He said overcoming a rare cancer with chemotherapy and surgery at the age of one, had given him "so much strength".

"I didn't start growing until... 15, 16. I was always about a foot smaller than all my peers," he 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."

Peniston, ranked 135th in the world, has been in terrific form coming into the grass-court Grand Slam, reaching the quarter-finals at Eastbourne, Queen's and Nottingham.

He says he thinks he might actually be dreaming.

"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 grinned.

"When I was younger, like a teenager, you always have 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-hander, who defeated French Open finalist Casper Ruud during his run at Queen's, made the perfect start against Laaksonen as a break of serve in the opening game of the match proving enough to seal the set.

In a crucial couple of games midway through the second set, Peniston saved three break points before striking again for a 4-3 lead and two holds of serve brought the second round within his sights.

Following an exchange of breaks in the third set, he wrapped up a clean victory with a further two breaks of serve to complete an impressive opening performance.

The British number six plays American Steve Johnson next, after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov withdrew with injury.

They will play on Wednesday and Peniston does not mind which court he plays on: "You could put me on the practice courts, I'd still love it."

Ryan, if they put you on a practice court, that definitely is some kind of dream.

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