Ryan Peniston takes Wimbledon by storm in best start for British tennis for 25 years

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Britain's Ryan Peniston celebrates beating Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen during their men's singles tennis match on the second day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 28, 2022 - British wildcard Ryan Peniston takes Wimbledon by storm - after surviving horrific cancer battle - GETTY IMAGES
Britain's Ryan Peniston celebrates beating Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen during their men's singles tennis match on the second day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 28, 2022 - British wildcard Ryan Peniston takes Wimbledon by storm - after surviving horrific cancer battle - GETTY IMAGES

British tennis is enjoying its best start to Wimbledon in 25 years, after nine players made it through to the second round at the All England Club.

It equals the number who progressed to the round of 64 in singles in 1997. Harriet Dart, who had her first-round match postponed due to poor light, could well make it 10 on Wednesday if she wins, which would mark Great Britain's best showing since 1984.

The positive news comes in the wake of Emma Raducanu's remarkable US Open victory in New York last summer, which many British players have cited as an inspiration to their seasons thus far.

Jack Draper, Raducanu's contemporary, stopped short of calling this cohort a golden generation. But he said watching Raducanu and company in action at the All England Club had inspired his straight sets dispatching of Belgium's Zizou Bergs on Tuesday evening.

"I watched a bit of Emma [Raducanu] and Andy [Murray], I thought they played amazing on Centre Court," he said after the 6-4 6-4 7-6(4) win, his first at a major. "This morning I've been able to watch a bit of Ryan [Peniston] win on the same court I was on, because I was obviously keeping track of his match to see what time I potentially go on. Definitely, seeing them win fired me up and I was ready to go."

Draper impressed last year, when he took a set off Novak Djokovic on Centre Court in the first round. This grass-court season he has grown into his own though, reaching his first ATP semi-final at Eastbourne last week and scoring top-20 scalps on the way. He will need another underdog win over 19th-seed Alex de Minaur on Thursday if he wants to progress.

His win on Tuesday was one of six from British players. Wildcard and cancer survivor Ryan Peniston was the standout story of the day, overcoming Swiss player Henri Laaksonen in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 6-2.

But world No 135 Peniston, 26, has overcome bigger challenges in his life. He was diagnosed with a rare soft-tissue cancer when he was just one, and the chemotherapy he underwent affected his growth. He said the experience made him fight for more as a junior player and now, decades on, he is enjoying the best moment of his career so far.

"It's been such a long journey, and difficult," he said. "I think after the tournament, I'm definitely going to celebrate with my family. I think it's been unexplainable, the feelings that I have, thinking about the past times and where I've been able to get to now."

Of his cancer survival, he added: "It had a huge impact for me, it's such a terrible thing to go through, especially for my family, my close friends. 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. It puts everything into perspective really."

In recent weeks he reached the quarter-finals at Nottingham, Queen's and Eastbourne - the latter two serving as his debut tour-level events - and has risen to British No 6. Those runs, which included beating world No 5 Casper Ruud, helped him earn an unlikely wildcard to Wimbledon. Peniston faces world No 93 Steve Johnson next in the round of 64.

His soon-to-be housemate Alastair Gray will join him there, as he also picked up his first main draw victories at Wimbledon. 288th-ranked wildcard Gray beat Tseng Chun-hsin 6-3 6-3 7-6(3) on his debut, while British No 3 Katie Boulter beat France's Clara Burel 7-5 6-3.

It was not all good news though. British No 2 Dan Evans made a disappointing early exit to Australian qualifier Jason Kubler. Evans lost in straight sets 6-1 6-4 6-3 to the world No 99.

"It's disappointing, it's frustrating, it hurts," he said. "I'm a big boy now. There will be plenty more chances."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting