All of a sudden, every step on this remarkable ride means rather more. For Ryan Peniston, for his future housemate and for all those being swept along.
To think this 26-year-old from Essex had toiled for so long without anyone taking much notice.
Now, after his fantastic run on the grass continued with a 6-4 6-3 6-2 win over Henri Laaksonen, this wildcard stands tall: a Wimbledon matchwinner, an inspirational cancer survivor, a lesson in perseverance. Almost a new homeowner.
His prize? A place in the Wimbledon second round. But the British No 6 wants more. More wins, possibly a place round here, too. Peniston is eyeing a house-share with fellow Brit Alastair Gray – the world No 288 who also reached round two in straight sets, beating Taiwan’s No 95-ranked Tseng Chun-hsin on his own singles debut.
Ryan Peniston defeated Henry Laaksonen in straight sets in the first round at Wimbledon
The 26-year-old was playing in his first ever five set match but prevailed with ease
‘We’re great friends. If we could find a place around this area to stay, it would be awesome,’ Peniston said.
Every victory helps – especially after Gray’s cryptocurrency portfolio crashed. Tuesday alone adds £56,000 to their budget. Alas, given prices round here, one of them might need to win the whole thing. ‘Something around this area would probably be a bit of a box,’ Gray joked.
‘Hopefully win a couple matches, then maybe we’ll be able to get something a little bit bigger.’
These really are special days.
‘It’s really hard to explain how it feels. It’s been such a journey,’ said Peniston, who battled a rare cancer as an infant. ‘Thinking about the past times and where I’ve been able to get to now.’
Scars remain, of course. ‘It’s such a terrible thing to go through, especially for my family, my close friends,’ Peniston said. ‘It gives me so much strength.’ And not just him.
‘I’ve had some really nice messages from some foundations and people as well – families that have gone through similar stuff. It’s really special to receive those.’
Laaksonen is rated 39 places higher than Peniston but could not defeat the British wildcard
Ryan Peniston was treated for a rare form of cancer when he was an infant
Peniston required surgery and chemotherapy – the treatment stunted his growth.
‘I was always about a foot smaller than all my peers,’ he said. ‘They all were growing and getting bigger serves… I was struggling just trying to run around and get the ball.’
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Peniston’s movement and doggedness helped repel the powerful Laaksonen.
‘It definitely made me tougher as a player and a person,’ he said. ‘It’s a blessing in disguise.’
How he is reaping the rewards. Yesterday, an expectant crowd on Court 12 swelled as Peniston’s star rose further.
No matter that this was his Grand Slam singles debut. Or that Peniston had never played a five-set match. Or that Switzerland’s Laaksonen is ranked 39 places higher than this left-hander.
The family of the Essex-born Brit were in the crowd to watch him defeat Laaksonen
‘For the first main draw match at Wimbledon, it couldn’t have gone any better,’ said Peniston, whose family were here.
After fine runs at Nottingham, Queen’s and Eastbourne, this tops the lot.
‘I was chatting with my coach Mark Taylor yesterday, saying ‘I’m waiting for someone to pinch me and wake up back in May sometime.’
Instead, the dream goes on. The retirement of Grigor Dimitrov means American Steve Johnson awaits in round two. Johnson is 32 and ranked No 93 – who would bet against Peniston?
After claiming victory, Peniston let out a huge roar and saluted his team in the crowd
Peniston is looking to buy a house with fellow British tennis player Alastair Gray
Gray, 24, has also spent his career in the shadows. Until this victory over Tseng, at least.
Not many housemates can reminisce about the day they both won on those famous lawns.
‘It is pretty special,’ said Gray, who now faces 11th seed Taylor Fritz. ‘To be going through this with him is just amazing.’
They share a coach; today they will join forces for the doubles.
‘When I was a teenager, you’d always have people (say): ‘You play tennis. I’ll see you at Wimbledon one day’,’ Peniston added.
‘I’d always say, ‘Yeah, hopefully’… now to just say it’s happened is unbelievable.’