'World's worst' tennis player loses libel action

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The Independent Online

Tennis pro Robert Dee today lost his libel action over a claim that he was the "world's worst".

Mr Dee, 23, who comes from Bexley, Kent, but is based in La Manga, Spain, had brought proceedings in London's High Court over an April 2008 story in the Daily Telegraph.

He said it was offensive and could blight his potential future career as a tennis coach.

The newspaper fought the case on the basis that the article, 'World's worst tennis pro wins at last', was not arguably defamatory when read together with another item in the same edition, and that Mr Dee had no real prospect of rebutting the defences of justification and fair comment.

Granting Telegraph Media Group Ltd summary judgment, Mrs Justice Sharp said that the claim of justification must succeed.

"The facts which are either admitted, not in dispute or incontestable therefore are these.

"The claimant is a professional player who did indeed lose 54 consecutive matches in tournaments on the international professional circuit during which he did not win one set.

"His losses were in tournaments which are under the jurisdiction of the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), they are world ranking tournaments and attract world ranking points.

"His record of consecutive losses was the world record equalling worst ever run of consecutive losses on the international professional circuit.

"These matches did not constitute the whole of his playing record during this time, because he was also playing in the Spanish domestic tournaments.

"The domestic Spanish tournaments in which the claimant played, and continues to play, are not part of the circuit, or the world circuit or the international professional circuit.

"They are not under the jurisdiction of the ITF or ATP. ATP ranking points are not available for them, and they are not world ranking."

She concluded that there was nothing, as a matter of reality, of which Mr Dee actually complained that could not be justified - and the facts were sufficient to justify any defamatory meaning the words complained of were capable of bearing.

The judge said that the Daily Telegraph was one of a very large number of media outlets that covered the story, and settlements and apologies had been achieved by Mr Dee from a very large number of them, including the BBC and Reuters.