“World’s worst tennis pro” loses Telegraph libel case

The High Court has thrown out a defamation claim brought against the Daily Telegraph by tennis player Robert Dee, who claimed the paper had defamed him by dubbing him the “world’s worst tennis pro”.

Addleshaw Goddard partner David Engel has secured more than 30 settlements from media outlets for Dee, who had pursued them for damages on grounds of defamation. Dee won a range of payments and apologies from across the global media, including a £12,500 settlement from the BBC.

The Daily Telegraph was the only outlet prepared to challenge the claim in a bid to have it struck out. The newspaper instructed solicitor advocate David Price of David Price solicitors.

The original article, which was published in April 2008, stated: “Robert Dee, 21, of Bexley, Kent, did not win a single match during his first three years on the circuit, touring at an estimated cost of £200,000.

“But his dismal run ended at the Reus tournament near Barcelona as he beat an unranked 17-year-old, Arzhang Derakshani, 6-4, 6-3. Dee lost in the second round.”

Addleshaws argued that the article had exposed its client to ridicule and was detrimental to his ability to work in the future.

Mrs Justice Sharp this morning rejected the argument that the claim would succeed in a higher court, concluding: “It wouldn’t be immediately apparent how the claim would be likely to restore or enhance the claimant’s reputation in any event.”

She added: “The incontestably true facts are that the claimant [Robert Dee] did lose 54 matches in a row in straight sets in his first three years on the world ranking ITF/ATP tournaments on the international professional tennis circuit, and that this was the worst ever run.”

The newspaper, she continued, had “no additional obligation” to prove the Dee “is objectively the worst professional tennis player in the world”.

In a statement Dee said he was considering whether to appeal the decision.

The statement said: “Given that more than 30 newspapers and other media organisations have already apologised for making allegations similar to those published by the Telegraph, it’s disappointing that the court has decided that my case against the Telegraph isn’t strong enough to proceed to a full trial.

“It’s particularly disappointing in light of the fact that the court accepted that the Telegraph was “having a laugh” at my expense and that the article could be defamatory.”

Counsel:

Claimant: Addleshaw Goddard partner David Engel instructed One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC and 5RB’s David Sherborne for Robert Dee.

Defendant: The Daily Telegraph instructed solicitor advocate David Price of David Price Solicitors & Advocates.