Often in sports, we talk about records and outstanding achievements. But the athletes whose names are remembered in history are not always truly good. At the end of the day, everyone knows how cynical human talk is, Herostratus illustrated it in ancient Greece. Perhaps Robert Dee didn’t do anything obnoxious, but the attention to him is clearly excessive, as can be concluded from his gaming skills. He won only one match throughout his professional career and had the longest losing streak in the sport’s history. According to many, Robert often lost on purpose, although he fought desperately for his honour and lost the court case against the newspaper, which accused him of defeatism. So who was he – an enthusiast in love with what he did or a sports freak?
Dropped out of school to become a professional tennis player
“I was born in Kent in the UK. I arrived in this world on January 18th 1987, during one of the coldest British winters in recent records,” – this is what Dee writes of himself on his autobiographical website. You can tell a lot about what kind of person he is by the language he uses and the very fact of creating a separate web resource in honour of oneself. Robert played tennis for the first time at about the age of seven at his school. Almost immediately, he realized that his life would somehow be connected with this sport, but his parents were not very happy about their son’s new hobby and demanded he focuses on studying. He was allowed to train and perform at youth competitions but had to receive a comprehensive education before there could be any discussions about a sports career. But can parents stand in the way of a dream?
Of course not, and at the age of 16, immediately after passing his last exams, Dee decided to give up his studies for a while to concentrate his attention on tennis. And his grades would allow him to be accepted into the best universities in England! But Robert was worried about something else – lagging behind his peers in tennis. Since he was not allowed to train fully before graduating from school, there could be no talks of a real career. Dee said he knew that his career would start later than most. He knew he wouldn’t be a legend at 21 but dreamt that maybe by the age of 23 or 24, he’d be able to enter world-class tournaments! As a down to earth person, he understood that he should not expect much but still wanted to at least try to get as high as possible in the rankings.
Worked with the coach of Sharapova and Andre Agassi
He gave all his best, at least during the training sessions, and the legendary Nick Bollettieri helped him with that. The world-famous coach has worked with Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova, Tommy Haas and many other successful players. According to Dee, he couldn’t wait to meet the coach, as everyone described him as a trainer who changes not only the physical abilities of his trainees but also the mental ones. Those, who like betting on tennis have probably heard about this coach and his star trainees.
The Bollettieri schedule was intense, challenging and harsh. Practice started at 4:45 am, long before sunrise, so the player had to get up around four. This was a difficult first lesson for a sixteen-year-old teenager who grew up in a family of overindulging parents. Then at least two hours of intensive training, breakfast, warm-up and another workout. It leads to evening and sleep so that six hours later, this vicious cycle can begin with a new circle.
All Dee wanted at that moment was to get a good sleep. However, he notes that working with Bollettieri is an incredible experience that he is proud of. According to Robert, he gained determination, a deep sense of self-worth and professionalism. After two years of gruelling training with Nick, Dee finally got a wild card for the Mexican Candidates Tournament. According to the recollections of the tennis player himself, he expected more resistance from the opponent in the first game, but the anxiety about the debut match and playing an away game did their job. At least this is what Robert says – he lost his nerve and lost the game. After that, his goal was to gain experience, so he began to apply for all tournaments with open qualifiers to try to enter the tennis elite. It is clear that the ITF Futures tournaments were not his childhood dream, but everyone has to start somewhere!
Lost a court case to a newspaper that called him the worst player in history
The only problem is that you can get an invitation to at least a challenger after successful performances in tournaments of a lower rank. But Robert was losing match after match. At some point, it seemed that he was just enjoying life and travelling, not caring about what was happening on the court. However, it is not like he travelled to the most desirable tourist spots. Iran, Senegal, Rwanda, Botswana, Venezuela, Kenya and Sudan – Dee, in his own words, was ready to perform even in the backyard of the devil. As long as he performs… According to Robert says, these trips taught him a lot. He began to value his standard of living and looked at third world countries from a different perspective. The tennis player highlights that you begin to understand what is truly important when you witness people not losing their kindness and humanity even in terrible living conditions: oppressive poverty, hotels with broken windows and rats, food that is impossible to eat unless you are starving.
He also saw representatives of all nationalities on the tennis court. He played against recent newcomers, the weakest athletes in the world ranking, and even with them, Robert had little success. Winning even one set was an impossible task for Dee, and he scored more than 12 points only after twenty attempts. His losing streak lasted for three years and 54 matches, and he hasn’t won a single set in that time. Curiously, after the 30th game, many started to notice the unusual Briton and keep count of the number of matches he lost. Bookmakers offered to bet on him, and Robert was interviewed. Because of that, suspicions arose that he was losing deliberately. However, Dee himself always denied such rumours. And yet, in the Spanish Tarragona, he beat the American Arzhang Derakhshani and went to the second round. He lost straight after that, but after a couple of months, there was another victory.
ITF officials and world stars, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Dee’s childhood idols, congratulated the tennis player on his debut success. Nevertheless, he assures everyone that receiving the status of the worst player in the world is not the price he is willing to pay for receiving praise when winning. He managed to win four times in a pretty short career. The Daily Telegraph called him the weakest tennis player in history, which deeply offended the guy, and he sued. But the British Supreme Court ruled that his record-breaking losing streak clearly stands out from all others, and journalists published no false information. In his years in tennis, Dee’s highest world ranking was 1466, which he took in May 2005. The funny thing is that, even though he almost always lost, he did manage to get prize money and earned about four thousand dollars. So is participation more important than winning, then? Participate in the games presented on our website, and you will be able to win real money.