In his first ATP main draw match, Great Britain’s Ryan Peniston pulled off the greatest win by far of his young career as he toppled Casper Ruud, the top seed and recent French Open finalist, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2) in the first round of Queen’s.
“I can’t really believe it, it feels like a dream,” he said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night thinking about this match. It doesn’t feel real.”
Peniston, 26, spent the formative years of his career playing in college at the University of Memphis, making his first full professional season in 2019. He is a survivor of rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that he was diagnosed with as a toddler.
He arrived at Queen’s in his best season, rising from his ranking of 268 at the beginning of the year to his current ranking of 180, a career-high, after back-to-back Challenger quarter-finals at Surbiton and Nottingham.
Those victories earned Peniston his first main-draw wildcard at Queen’s. Faced with an unwelcome draw against Ruud, the world No 5, Peniston soared. He served well and continually set the pace with his tricky lefty game, controlling the baseline and making Ruud, 23, uncomfortable in defence.
Despite Ruud’s pedigree, he understandably played with low energy after his efforts in the French Open and he has also not been shy about his dislike of grass. Peniston was far more comfortable as he breezed through his service games, facing two break points in the entire match. Despite the two tiebreak sets, Peniston won 98 points to Ruud’s 87, an emphatic victory.
“Casper is an unreal player and did so well in the French Open, so I knew it was a tough ask, but you have to step on the court thinking you have a chance to win and that’s what I did,” said Peniston. “It’s a bit surreal because four or five years ago I was sat over there watching this tournament.”
As Peniston left the court, the joy of his biggest win was compounded by more positive news: he will realise another one of his dreams this month after he received a wildcard into the Wimbledon main draw.