On 23 April 2008 the Telegraph printed two articles about 21-year-old tennis player Robert Dee using the headlines ‘World’s worst tennis pro wins at last’ and ‘A British sensation – the world’s worst’.
The paper claimed that Mr. Dee did not win a single match during his first three years as a professional, lost 54 matches in a row and compared him to ski jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards and the Equatorial Guinea swimmer Eric “the Eel” Moussambani.
Mr. Dee didn’t see the funny side. He decided to sue the paper for libel. Having already secured 30+ apologies and tens of thousands of pounds in damages from other media organisations – including the BBC, Daily Mail, Guardian and Sun – he appeared in the High Court this week to present his case.
While he admits losing 54 consecutive matches and 108 successive sets at international level, he says he actually enjoyed “modest success” in national tournaments.
His barrister, Andrew Caldecott, says the articles “ridiculed and embarrassed” his client, and may even deter people from employing him as a professional coach.
“In the interests of entertaining readers Mr. Dee was wrongly branded as the world’s worst tennis pro, and his record and ranking were wholly misinterpreted on the front page of a national newspaper, which would have been widely read by his friends and acquaintances.”
The Telegraph shows no signs of backing down, however. The Guardian claims it has several famous tennis players, including Boris Becker and John Lloyd, lined up ready to testify on its behalf.
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