British tennis star Ryan Peniston has said having cancer as a baby has been a “blessing in disguise” for making him “tougher as a player” after winning his debut singles match at Wimbledon.
The 26-year-old wildcard was loudly cheered on by his parents, Paul and Penny, from the side-lines of a packed court watching his triumph over Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen.
At the age of one, Peniston was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a tumour near his stomach, which required surgery and chemotherapy before years of regular check-ups.
The Essex-born player has previously attributed his late blooming in tennis to battling this as a youngster, as he grew up “a foot smaller than all my peers”.
Speaking about his cancer battle during the post-match press conference, Peniston said: “It made me definitely tougher as a player and a person I think.
“It’s a blessing in disguise really.”
“It’s such a terrible thing to go through, especially for my family, my close friends,” he added.
“But it gives me so much strength.
“I’ve had some really, really nice messages from some foundations and people as well, like families that have gone through similar stuff.
“It’s really special to receive those kind of messages.
“It puts everything into perspective really.”
Peniston added that his recovery had been “a long journey and difficult, but super rewarding” and he will be celebrating his win with his family.
“It’s been unexplainable, kind of the feelings that I have, thinking about the past times and where I’ve been able to get to now,” he said.
Britain’s number six added that his parent’s presence at the game was “really nice”.
“Some points in the match you kind of have to just look around a little bit and see your friends and family there, as well,” he said.
“Everyone, they’re just having a great time. It’s special.”
Peniston added that he also “definitely” heard support from Southend United fans – his home football team.
“I definitely heard them during the match,” he said.
“I kind of had to focus because otherwise I start getting like pumped up with them.
“After the match it was really nice to hear them shouting ‘Seasiders’. That was nice.”
Peniston will face the USA’s Jackson Withrow on Wednesday for his second match of The Championships.