Ryan Peniston on fighting back from cancer and his glorious summer

Kevin Palmer
Delight for Ryan Peniston
Ryan Peniston

Ryan Peniston had to overcome more than most to realise his dreams.

At the age of just one, he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma cancer, plunging his parents Penny and Paul into a nightmare they feared would never end.

Yet in the summer of 2022, the little boy who was so terribly sick before he knew what was happening to him proved that even the most challenging hurdles can be overcome.

Peniston’s run to the quarter-finals of the LTA’s Queen’s Club Championships included a famous victory over world No 5 Capser Ruud.

And he went on to back that up with a victory against rising star Holger Rune in the grass court event at Eastbourne before he won his first singles match in the main draw at Wimbledon.

Peniston’s story captured the imagination of a global audience and he admits it was the fairy tale he had always believed could happen.

“It was an amazing summer and when you have had moments like that, it inspires you to push for more,” he told Tennis365.

“It was a change in the usual thing to what I’m used to at the end of a match. I had to deal with a lot of press at Queen’s, Eastbourne and then Wimbledon, so it was different. But it was cool and I enjoyed it.”

Peniston’s press briefings often featured questions about his childhood illness and on World Cancer Day (February 4th), he told us that his exposure to the world’s media allowed him to shine a light on a charity that means so much to him.

“It was obvious that they would ask me about my illness when I was a child and I was fine with it,” he continued.

“Some people might not want to talk about something like that, but if I open up and talk about it, then other people going through the same thing might believe it is possible to come out the other side and to still chase your dreams.

“One of the best parts of my success in the grass court season last summer was the opportunity it gave me to speak about my story and this great charity.

“Hopefully that had a positive impact on people who are in the battle with cancer now.

“I’m an ambassador for Young Lives vs Cancer. They work with families and kids that have been affected by cancer from the age of zero to 25. Being diagnosed with cancer is probably one of the worst days of your life and this charity helps people on so many levels.

“They help to buy extra things, travel expenses and help in the fight against cancer as well. Having support around you when you are in that dark place is so important and I’m proud to be a part of the charity.”

What comes next for Peniston is a question he is trying to answer, as he has returned to the ATP Challenger Tour before what he hopes will be more success on grass courts this summer.

“I certainly feel like my game has gone up a few levels compared to where it was this time last year,” he added.

“A lot of areas of my game have improved, but I know there is so much more to work on.

“When you know you have beaten a top ten player and have competed against players competing at the elite end of the ATP Tour, you know it’s possible to get there. The challenge is doing it every week.

“I have just come back from Australia and that was an awesome experience.

“To be out there and see the level people are playing at was pretty cool and I was to be winning matches there as soon as possible.

“Last year, I went to Australia and I was one spot out from as first alternative (in Australian Open qualifying). That was a pretty brutal experience, but I used it as motivation and said to myself that it wouldn’t happen again.

“So I was glad to get into qualifying this time and hopefully I can continue to climb the rankings this year.”

Sporting stars are often hailed as heroes for overcoming adversity, but Peniston’s story takes that to the next level.