Tennis Spotlight: Ryan Peniston and How College Tennis Prepared Him For The Tour

I had the opportunity to interview Ryan Peniston. He is from England and played college tennis at the University of Memphis. He had a successful college career and even got a head start on tour during the fall semester of his senior year. Ryan was ranked as high as 32 in NCAA singles and 13 in NCAA doubles. He also made the NCAA Final Four in doubles. Since being on tour, Ryan has been ranked as high as 359 in singles. Read more to learn about his story. If you are interested in following his results click here. If you want to check out his Instagram page click here.

  1. When did you start playing tennis, and when did you know you wanted to become a professional tennis player? 

My dad put a tennis racquet and ball in my hand when I was 3 and I’d say that I fell in love with the sport when I started winning around 8 or 9 years old. The more I competed and played, my love got stronger.

  1. When did you decide when you wanted to go pro? 

I only started growing and getting in the gym when I was around 17 or 18. A lot of the other players were more developed than me in juniors. I got to about 400 in ITF Juniors. We realized I was not going to be making the junior grand slams so we tried a few futures tournaments. I got my first ATP point when I was 17. My parents and I made the decision for me to go to college when I was 18. The coach at Memphis was English and I loved the place and the people there, so I knew I would go pro after college.

  1. How did you find Memphis? What made you choose Memphis? 

I used a recruiting company to help find me a school and they were very helpful. Sarah Borwell helped me find a school. The coach at Memphis was English so he helped push me to take a recruiting trip and I loved it. I went on my recruiting trip during the ATP 250 event that used to be at Memphis. It was an amazing experience meeting the team and coaches.

  1. Did you see college tennis as a viable route to becoming pro?

 I definitely saw it as a route. When I went to college there had not been many players go pro after college. As my time in college went on I saw it become a viable route. 

  1. How special was it to take a semester off during your senior year to travel the world and play tournaments?

It was awesome. My coach presented the idea to my teammate and I to take the fall semester off and travel to play futures tournaments. He knew we wanted to go pro and he pushed us to do that, because we had no idea we could. We saw what it would be like if we decided to go on tour. It was helpful because we were on tour for 6 or 7 months. After our trip we both knew we wanted to do it.

  1. How did your bond grow when you travelled with your teammate that semester?

We played juniors and once in college we lived together for 3 years. It was a great experience and we are good friends.

  1. How much confidence did you and your teammate get from that?

 We did not think it would make a big difference to us, but we were wrong. It made a huge difference and we played well once we got back. We had our best season that semester.

  1. What was your favorite memory from college tennis?

Our last tournament of college was the NCAA singles and doubles event. We lost in the round of 64 in the team event. Andrew and I were alternates for doubles and we ended up going anyway hoping to get in and we did. We made it to the final four after being alternates. We become the first All Americans in program history.

  1. What challenges did you face in college tennis, and are they similar to the challenges you face on tour? 

In college you are always super busy, and you do not really have any down time, which can get to you. My biggest challenge was getting used to that my freshman year. Challenges on tour are definitely different. On tour it is just you, and your schedule is not made for you like it is in college.

  1. Can you talk about the factors you look into when choosing a tournament to play? 

For me, I look at the surface… I do not look at clay tournaments as much. Location is huge, and Europe is perfect. If I have to go to Asia or the U.S I have to spend more for expenses. Every tennis player likes to play in certain countries. I like to play in the U.S a lot because of my college experience, so I play there a bit. The strength of the tournament is important too.

  1. What has been your favorite country to travel and play in? 

I had a really good time in Doha. I played the tournament in the fall when I took the semester off. My teammate and I had a really good time on and off court. We ended up winning the doubles event there.

  1. What ranking do you need to get into challengers?

I was able to get into the challengers for the first time last fall. I was 400 in the world and that was getting me in. The draws are smaller due to Covid and there are less tournaments. I would say you would need to be top 350/300 to get you in.

  1. What are your thoughts on the ATP cutting prize money next year?

It is definitely worrysome for all tennis players, especially when guys who are close to my ranking are not making a lot of money as is. Many are worried about what the year will look like for them. We just want to have a calendar schedule right now.

  1. What has been your biggest win on tour? Did you surprise yourself and did it reassure you that you can play at that level? 

Last year, I played against Tomic and won the first set before he retired. I another match I played a guy who was top 150 and I won in 3 sets, and that was a big milestone for me. It gave me a lot of confidence.

  1. What is your 2020 tennis accomplishment goal? 

Covid got in the way of my goals for this year. I wanted to play qualifying for Wimbledon and could not. I wanted to get into some other big tournaments as well.

  1. What was your 2020 personal goal? 

I passed my driving test so I finally got my license. I have been wanting that for 5 years now. It is so much tougher in England than the U.S. I was pumped when I passed it, I scared the instructor.

  1. How has tennis influenced you in 3 words?  

Resilience, Culture, Belief

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to young tennis players what would you say? 

Always keep pushing yourself and be willing to learn about the sport and yourself.

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