Britain’s Ryan Peniston enjoys dream Queen’s Club debut to shock Casper Ruud

The little-known 26-year-old from Southend won two tie-breaks to beat last month’s French Open runner-up 7-6 (4) 7-6 (2).

By Press Association Published: 14 June 2022 - 5.14pm

British number seven Ryan Peniston enjoyed a dream Queen’s Club debut by knocking out the top seed and world number five Casper Ruud.

The little-known 26-year-old from Southend, playing in his first ATP Tour main draw, won two tie-breaks to beat last month’s French Open runner-up 7-6 (4) 7-6 (2).

It was only the seventh time the top seed has lost an opening-round match at Queen’s in the open era, with Peniston consigning Ruud to an illustrious list which also includes Andy Murray, Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors.

It has been a remarkable journey for Peniston, who survived cancer as a baby before going on to join the professional tennis ranks after learning his trade in France and at the University of Memphis.

He said: “I can’t really believe it, it feels like a dream. I didn’t get much sleep last night, it doesn’t feel real.

“I’ve been playing well. Obviously Casper is an unreal player, he did so well at the French Open so I knew it was a tough ask, but you have to step on the court knowing you’ve got a chance to win – so that’s what I did.

“It’s a bit surreal, four or five years ago I was sitting over there watching. It’s a bit unreal. I’ll need a bit of time to process it.”

When he was just one year old Peniston was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer, and needed surgery and chemotherapy as well as regular check-ups for years afterwards.

“It's a bit surreal, four or five years ago I was sitting over there watching”
- Ryan Peniston

“It was definitely a difficult start to my life,” he added. “I don’t remember much. But for my parents and my brothers, I think it must have been a pretty, pretty tough time.

“But I had the amazing, amazing doctors and amazing nurses who helped me through that – and my family, huge, huge thanks to them.

“And yeah, standing here today, that was pretty good.”

A stunning victory in the west London sunshine was the perfect way for Peniston to celebrate the news he has received a wild card for Wimbledon.

Admittedly Ruud is a clay-court specialist who has a pretty low opinion of the grass, and the Norwegian struggled with his timing throughout and also needed treatment on his hip after taking a tumble on the baseline.

Peniston, by contrast, has thrived on the turf this year and already had Challenger Tour wins over Jiri Vesely and Adrian Mannarino under his belt while breaking into the top 200 for the first time.

He won five points in a row on his way to taking the first-set tie-break, not long after Ruud had slipped while on set point.

Ruud took another tumble early in the second but broke Peniston for the first time for 4-3, only for the home hope to hit straight back before completing the job in another tie-break.

Later on Tuesday, British number two Dan Evans lost his first-round match to defending champion Matteo Berrettini, 6-3 6-3.

On court one, Britain’s Paul Jubb – at 227 the lowest-ranked player at Queen’s this week – took world number 29 Botic Van De Zandschulp to three sets in a valiant 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-1 defeat.

Jubb can console himself with a wild card for Wimbledon but with Murray withdrawing through injury and national number one Cameron Norrie knocked out on Monday, the unlikely pair of Peniston and 20-year-old Jack Draper are the only Brits through to the second round here.

Next Peniston faces Argentina’s world number 46 Francisco Cerundolo, while Draper’s second-round opponent was confirmed as qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori, the world number 56 from Finland.

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