Peniston BEATS Laaksonen to claim his first ever win at a Grand Slam

Cancer survivor Ryan Peniston WINS on his Wimbledon singles debut with the British wildcard and world number 135 defeating Henri Laaksonen in straight sets to claim his first Grand Slam win

  • British wildcard Ryan Peniston beat Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday
  • The world number 135 was playing in the first five-set match of his entire career
  • However, he only needed three sets to dismantle Laaksonen – world number 96
  • As a result, Peniston will now face American star Steve Johnson in round two  

When this grass-court season kicked off, who can honestly say they knew much of Ryan Peniston, his childhood struggles with cancer, and his winding road to tennis’ upper echelons?

When it eventually ends, who knows quite how high this wildcard will have climbed?

It is testament to how the 26-year-old has burst into Britain’s consciousness over recent weeks that progression to the Wimbeldon second round no longer came as some huge surprise.

British wildcard Ryan Peniston beat Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday morning 

The British world No 135 was playing in the first five-set match of his entire career

Instead expectancy swirled around Court 12 even before Peniston brushed aside Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-3 6-2.

Never mind that this was his Grand Slam singles debut. Never mind that Peniston had never tasted victory in a major full stop.

Never mind that Switzerland’s Laaksonen is ranked 40 places higher than this left-hander from Essex.

Far tougher tests of Peniston’s progress lie in wait, of course, but the withdrawal of Grigor Dimitrov means it will be American Steve Johnson in round two.

Johnson is 32 and now ranked No 93 in the world. This inspiring story might just go on, you know.

Peniston’s first Wimbledon victory was secured in fine style.

The British’s No 6 and world No 135 wrested control immediately by taking Laaksonen’s first service game.

However, he only needed three sets to dismantle Laaksonen – who is the world No 96

The withdrawal of Grigor Dimitrov (C) means Peniston will play Steve Johnson in round two

He kept his nose in front to win it 6-4 before this match swung midway through set two.

At 3-3, Peniston faced three break points – his first all match. The 26-year-old saved them all, and then broke immediately after.

Laaksonen had another chance to break at 5-3. Again Peniston held firm and again the Britain broke immediately after to take it 6-3.

There were more twists to come in set three.

The end seemed nigh when, after five attempts, Peniston broke for 3-1, only for Laaksonen to regain parity in the following game.

Rather than wobble Peniston, that setback only sparked another surge. Three straight games, including two more breaks, saw him take the third 6-2.

Then it was time for the emotion. After remaining calm throughout, Peniston let out a huge roar. Not for the last time this fortnight, you imagine.

American star, Johnson (above), is currently 32 years old and is ranked No 93 in the world

That’s smashing! It’s a Wimbledon dream come true for tennis player, 26, who beat cancer as a baby 

By Isaan Khan

Ryan Peniston was treated for a rare form of cancer when he was just a baby

Having fought cancer at the age of only one, Wimbledon wildcard Ryan Peniston is no stranger to adversity.

After his parents found a lump on his thumb, rhabdomyosarcoma – a rare cancer which forms in soft tissue – was diagnosed.

Surgery and two bouts of chemotherapy followed before Peniston was given the all-clear 18 months later.

The 26-year-old, from Great Wakering, Essex, fulfilled a dream today with his Wimbledon singles debut – a victory over Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen. 

He said overcoming cancer can help him on court as it ‘gives me a lot of strength. It was a really tough time in my life, and especially for my parents and brothers.

‘It made us closer as a family and it is something I think about when I have bad times. It puts things into perspective when playing tennis.

‘Tennis is a very mentally tough game so overall it has given me a lot of mental resilience, and I definitely try and use it on the court’.

The family’s experience has led them to work in the NHS at Southend Hospital. 

Peniston is pictured as an infant with his mother, Penny, who now works in the NHS

His dream to play at Wimbledon was formed by childhood visits to SW19 such as this

In this family picture from 2020 Peniston (centre) stands alongside his brother Harry (far left), 28, a junior doctor at Southend Hospital; his brother Sam (second left), 31, a paediatric nurse at Southend Hospital; his mother mother Penny, 66, a part-time ward manager at Southend Hospital; and his father Paul, 66, a retired train driver

Mother Penny, 66, is a ward manager, brother Sam, 31, is a paediatric nurse and other brother Harry, 28, is a junior doctor. Father Paul, 66, bucks the trend as a retired train driver.

Peniston believes his treatment, which left ‘a large scar’ across his abdomen, also affected his tennis career as his growth was stunted until he was about 16.

He said: ‘I had scans and they (doctors) came out and said, “It’s cancer”.

‘I don’t think anything prepares anyone for that kind of moment. I have a large scar across my abdomen.

‘I think what happened to me when I was younger has definitely had an impact on my brothers and could be one of the reasons why they went into that profession.’

Peniston has overcome his childhood difficulties to become a winner at Wimbledon

The British No 6 has been excited at showcasing his abilities after receiving a wildcard entry to SW19 this year – he has previously played in the doubles.

However, he also has an eye on raising cancer awareness.

He added: ‘I’ve dreamt about it (playing singles at Wimbledon) since I was a kid.

‘Aside from tennis, I would like to raise cancer awareness and help as many families as I can who are going through similar things that mine went through.’

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