Peniston Opens Up On Cancer Battle: 'It Gives Me A Lot Of Strength'
A smile beams across the face of a tired but ecstatic Ryan Peniston as he takes a seat at The Queen’s Club on Tuesday.
The victory is reward for the hard work the 26-year-old has given to the sport since he first started playing as a child and for all players on Tour, a moment like this would feel special. However, it feels extra sweet for the World No. 180 due to the difficulties he has faced in his life.
When he was one, Peniston was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer found in children. The Briton had surgery to remove a tumour before he underwent an extensive period of chemotherapy in London. It was a period of his life Peniston become more aware of when he grew older.
“It is a difficult period to look at. I don’t remember anything when I was younger and even when I was a kid I didn’t know that much about the situation. It is only in the past 10 years that I have become more interested and asked my parents to tell me,” Peniston told ATPTour.com when discussing his illness.
“I am sure my parents didn’t really want to talk about that time in their life as it must have been so hard for them, like everyone around me. But it gives me a lot of strength when I look back to it,” Peniston added. “I think any other kids or families that are going through such a tough time, if they can have any kind of glimpse of hope or see what is possible, that would be a great.”
The 26-year-old was declared cancer-free a year after he started receiving treatment. Despite not being able to recall that difficult period, Peniston feels it has hugely shaped him into the individual he has become.
“It has hugely changed my perspective [on life],” Peniston said. “When I am having a tough day about something or getting annoyed about something little, I kind of remind myself that I literally might not have been here 25 years ago. When I think about stuff [that has annoyed me], It makes me relax and I try and enjoy everything. It definitely makes these kinds of days a little bit sweeter.”
The Briton successfully made a full recovery, but he has suffered long-term challenges from the treatment. Peniston remains fairly upbeat when sharing the difficulties he faced, further solidifying the positive outlook he has on life.
“The chemotherapy affected my growth. I was really small up until I was 14 or 15,” the 6'0" Peniston said. “I was almost a foot smaller than some of my friends. In that aspect, it almost helped me in terms of tennis because I was able to work on some skills maybe other players weren’t working on. For example my movement, using my hands and tactics.
“Other people were serving big at 14. It has helped me a lot and when I started growing a bit it made me appreciate it as I was so small when I was younger. The biggest long-term aspect of it has been my mentality, though.”
Peniston’s movement, touch and determination were on show for all to see against Ruud as he transferred his off-court character onto court in his match against the Roland Garros finalist.
The 26-year-old, who attended the University of Memphis before turning professional in 2018, beamed as he reflected on the clash with Ruud, while he analysed his journey to this moment.
“During the match and when I managed to win the emotions were running really high,” the World No. 180 said. “It is indescribable really when the crowd were getting involved and cheering. It is just a surreal feeling.
“Ever since I started playing on the Tour in 2018 I haven’t been swayed away too much. I have had a vision and a dream of what I wanted to achieve and kept pushing towards that even when I lost.”
For Peniston, victory in front of a packed home crowd will live long in his memory. The wild card will next face Miami semi-finalist Francisco Cerundolo in the second round. However, before that, he will allow himself to celebrate his standout win, which has propelled him to No. 156 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“I am going to celebrate with my team and family and enjoy the moment as much as I can,” Peniston said. “I think I will sleep a lot better tonight than I did last night. Then as a tennis player, you get to enjoy the win and then a couple of hours later you have to think about the next match.”