Top 5: the worst losers in tennis

Aug 28, 2012, 6:28:54 PM

17 consecutive defeats between late February and late August! The recent plight of Donald Young recalls others: those experienced by Donnelly, Dee or Spadea a few years ago. In a world that only swears by success,...

17 consecutive defeats between late February and late August! The recent plight of Donald Young recalls others: those experienced by Donnelly, Dee or Spadea a few years ago. In a world that only swears by success, the losers, the real ones, are still stigmatized. Everywhere except here! We pay tribute…

1 / Robert Dee - 54 consecutive defeats

On 22 April 2008, my life changed forever. While I was still unknown by most of the tennis world, I suddenly became famous.
Notorious for having taken three years to win a match sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation, Robert Dee had accumulated 108 lost sets and 54 consecutive defeats on secondary circuits... Quite a performance. Or the tragi-comic story of a sweet British globetrotter revealed to the public by the international media making fun of him. "The worst player in the world" is how he’s described in all those articles. Ouch. A punchline too far, to which Robert Dee answered quickly. He sued all the newspapers and websites which spread the news "for libel". While underlining that he did win some matches during this period (in club tournaments, actually, but they are not recognized by the ITF, Editor's note), he won a resounding victory in court, the judicial court that is. His finest. Verdict: public apologies and compensatory payments for the authors of this gross behaviour. Luckily, after extensive discussions, his record remains formalized and official.

2/ Diego Beltranena – 55 consecutive defeats

The true statistics' monster: an enigmatic Guatemalan who, between 1997 and 2005, accumulated a total of three defeats in Challenger tournaments and 50 in Futures, former satellite tournaments, for a pre-tax total of 53 successive spankings! Diego has since played two games in May 2008 for two additional losses. A nice "+ 2" which makes of this valiant knight the absolute record holder of the largest number of consecutive losses. Fortunately, during this historic series of 55 defeats Diego still managed to win a set. The honour is safe.

3/ Vince Spadea – 21 consecutive defeats

June 2000. Vince Spadea stared into space, not daring to speak to any of his colleagues. The American has hit rock-bottom: he hasn’t won a single game since late October. 21 times, he shook hands with his opponent and congratulated him for his victory! Ranked 19th in the world at the beginning of his rough patch, his stock price fell beyond 60th place. Playing a sold, but unspectacular game, he would finally find relief in the first round of Wimbledon: Spadea defeated Rusedski in five sets. He could have cried. According to him, we escaped something worse: "It’s terrible to have such a period. If I had lost tonight, I don’t know what I would have done. I felt that I was observed microscopically. When I think my parents left for Florida two days ago... When they saw that I was playing Rusedski, they figured that it wasn't worth staying!"

4/ Gary Donnelly – 20 consecutive defeats

A good doubles' player (finalist at Wimbledon in 1986 with McEnroe’s former partner, Peter Fleming, Editor's note), Gary Donnelly is the only player to have been spotted breaking down in tears after beating some unknown in first round of the U.S. Open. When you have lost twenty matches in a row, even a victory over the Australian Carl Limberger, even a stolen victory, is enough to make you reach for the tissues. But it was perhaps too much for Donnelly... After this "return" to business, he never won a match in singles play on the big tour again. He did not win much before either...

5/ Donald Young – 17 consecutive defeats

The latest addition to the group. "Every time I come here, I play like a punk", said Donald Young to his mother this summer, after his defeat at Wimbledon. At this moment, the eternal toddler, too weak mentally, too protected by his parents, didn't think that his losing streak that started in February would last until Monday 20th August 2012, and the first round match against Leonardo Mayer in Winston Salem. But why? "I don’t really want to know, and I haven’t read anything on me lately, because it's useless. But now I know that I can laugh about it for the rest of the year”. We will too...


In another genre, here are equally impressive losing streaks. Juan Antonio Marin, beaten 18 times in the first round of a Grand Slam in... 18 entries! The Costa Rican almost struck a major blow in 1999 against Pete Sampras at Roland Garros, but that was only almost. Throughout his career everything he did was “almost”. The worst word for a high-level athlete.   Vitas Gerulaitis, beaten 16 times by Björn Borg in... 16 matches! The two friends met in many finals and semi-finals between 1974 and 1981 and the Swedish God always won. Sometimes very easily. To make Gerulaitis go totally insane, who, between ourselves, was already quite something originally: "If I bring him home one day when he will be 95 years old and I help him out of his wheelchair, then I think that on that day I will have a chance to beat him."   Jacques Weiss, unfortunate record holder of the largest number of participations without the slightest victory at Roland Garros. Between 1934 and 1956, the Frenchman strode out onto the famous clay with his racquet and never won a game. Worse than Nicolas Mahut! And who knows what would have happened if World War II didn't intervene.   By Victor Le Grand and Julien Pichené