- School: University of Memphis
- Year Graduated: 2018
- Current Job: Professional Tennis
Ryan Peniston was raised in Southend-on-sea, England until he was 13 years old. He then moved to Nice, France to train at ISP Academy, which is now known as Mouratogolo. He was there until the age of 18 when he went to college.
Ryan entered college at the University of Memphis in the fall of 2014. He spent most of his career at lines #1 and #2 singles. He was able to achieve a career high ranking of 32 in singles and 13 in doubles. His doubles partner was fellow Englishman Andrew Watson, who also graduated in 2018.
Ryan’s most notable achievement was making it to the final four of the NCAA individual doubles event. This achievement gave him and partner Andrew Watson All-American status. As you will read in the interview below, this was a goal of Ryan’s from the beginning of his career. It was more special because he and Watson became the first All-Americans in The University of Memphis program history.
I have personally gotten to know Ryan more through the pro tour. In fact, he beat me in my first futures final in 2019. I handed him his first professional title and since that day, he hasn’t slowed down a bit. He raced to a career high of ATP #356 by the end of the year and currently sits at ATP #396.
Ryan has a great head on his shoulders and he is a great example of how college tennis can develop players. Ryan’s level of tennis has improved drastically since the juniors and he attributes that to his coaches at Memphis, the college atmosphere, and his maturation over the years. Without further ado, enjoy our interview with Ryan Peniston as he provides some great advice to aspiring college tennis players.
7 Questions With Ryan Peniston
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
It was awesome actually. At first, college was something that was very new to me, so when I started receiving offers and messages on Facebook I didn’t really know what to think. I was talking to a few schools but only went on one recruiting trip as it was the one that I was most interested in. Going to America was a cool experience and being in Memphis, Tennessee was a complete culture shock. I committed on my recruit trip which was in February and it became a pretty exciting time.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
My favorite story of college has to be becoming the program’s first all-Americans with Andrew Watson. We would talk about the goal of becoming all-americans throughout our whole college careers and our coaches would use it as one of the motivations to push us during practices. We didn’t really get that close until of course the last tournament of our college careers. We had a decent senior year of doubles together, we had only played 2 matches together in college before our senior season when our coaches decided to team us up together. We finished the season ranked 40th in the nation so we didn’t really think that we would make the NCAA tournament. The dream started to die a little. I was going for singles and our coach knew that there was a small chance that we could get in as alternates for doubles so he asked Watson if he wanted to come for the hell of it. Thank God he said yes.
Two teams ended up pulling out and the alternates before us already went home for the summer. We were in. We ended playing so freely and well because we literally shouldn’t have been in the tournament and had nothing to lose. We ended up making it to the final four and became the first tennis all-americans in Memphis’ history. To do all that with one of my closest mates, I really couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my college career.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
College tennis prepared me for all sorts of things in life. It allowed me to grow as a person on and off the court. College gives you a feeling of freedom that most 18 year olds haven’t ever experienced before. You’re in a place filled with 30,000 other kids your age and you can kind of do whatever you want. But then with all that freedom comes the same amount of responsibility. You learn how to be held accountable for your actions and how to really use your time. I am now a professional tennis player and college tennis is a huge reason for that. It was a place that helped me to improve and gave me the confidence to pursue a professional tennis career.
The University of Memphis was a great stepping stone onto the pro tour for me. One of the biggest reasons for that is the coaching staff, Paul Goebel and Chris Doerr. They really helped me to improve my game. The coaches and team became like a family to me and it felt like a home away from home.
#4) A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?
I would say that college gives you a chance to improve your tennis game whilst getting a college degree. It allows you to have something to fall back on without compromising your tennis game. If you want to delve deep into your academics then college is also an awesome place to do that, allowing you to form some amazing networking relationships.
#5) Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?
I would say that it is 100% possible to have fun and not compromise your tennis and academics. College is a place that you can take your tennis to the next level and also have a great social life.
6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
If I were starting college again I would just try and go to as many college events as possible. Even though I feel that I went to loads of events during my college career I would still try and go to more. Also I would make as many networking connections as possible as it does no harm at all to introduce yourself and it can do a world of good for your life after college.
7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
College tennis was a great choice for myself as I developed very late physically and my game wasn’t ready for the pro tour when I was 18. I would win an odd round here and there in futures before college but college took my game to another level and allowed me to consistently do well in futures. Also I feel that there are so many things in college that you would be missing out on if you didn’t go, as in social and team aspects.