Image via WikipediaEnglish tennis pro Robert Dee, 23, has taken to a law court, instead of a tennis court, to slam London's Daily Telegraph in a libel suit for calling him the "World's worst tennis pro."
According to an account in The Guardian, Dee's attorney said articles in the Telegraph on April 23, 2008, featured stories under the headlines "World's worst tennis pro wins at last" and "A British sensation--the world's worst," that describe his client's "dismal run" of three years on the professional circuit during which Dee did not win any matches before he defeated an unranked 17-year-old player in Spain in April 2008, and equate Dee's 54 consecutive match losses to losing performances by a swimmer and a ski jumper.
Dee concedes losing 54 international matches in a row, but claims he had "modest success" in national tournaments in Spain during that losing streak. Dee's attorney said the Telegraph articles exposed his client to ridicule and contempt and could deter others from hiring Dee as a professional coach. Moreover, Dee asserts that he was not world-ranked in 2008, and therefore, could not be the "World's worst" player.
For its part, the Telegraph is sticking to its guns, and calling in big guns, including tennis greats Boris Becker and John Lloyd, as witnesses. Thus far, Dee's legal spin has been more successful than the spin in his serve, as he has extracted apologies and/or damages from various English media outlets that disparaged his tennis skills, but wanted to avoid litigation, including the Guardian, the Sun, the BBC and the Daily Mail.
Although arguably calling Dee the world's worst tennis pro could be an objectively verifiable statement of fact, "TUOL" suspects were the lawsuit brought in the U.S. against American media outlets, Dee might be jumping over the net to congratulate the winner, because the burden would be on him to prove the media outlets published the falsestatement with actual malice. The media would offer up a defense of fair comment--that is, calling Dee the world's worst is a statement of opinion, which is neither true nor false, and therefore, not susceptible to a defamatory meaning. If the events had occurred in the less libel plaintiff-friendly U.S., there wouldn't have been match point in bringing suit.