Just can’t win: losing streaks from around the world

Tennis

Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Kings XI Punjab to snap their six-match losing start to the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) season on Saturday. Their winless record was the joint worst start in IPL history (along with Delhi Daredevils)

Neither team holds the IPL record for consecutive losses, though, and should take inspiration from other teams and sportspersons around the world who endured similar slumps. Some turned it around, and it was making history in a manner they would have preferred avoiding.

Here are a few infamous ones:

Sunderland

The streak: 15 consecutive Premier League defeats in 2002-03

The story

Sunderland — with players like Kevin Kilbane, Tore Andre Flo, Kevin Phillips and Claudio Reyna — began the season under Peter Reid with five points in their first four matches, including a 1-0 win at Elland Road against Leeds United and a draw at home against Manchester United. The first 19 matches yielded 18 points, with Howard Wilkinson replacing Reid in October.

After Christmas, Sunderland picked up just one point, a goalless draw at home against Blackburn Rovers, and then lost 15 in a row, consigned to relegation with last place on the final day. They managed just 19 points (with a goal difference of -44), 24 off what would have ensured safety. Wilkinson made way for Mick McCarthy in March to sum up a season of chaos.

What happened next?

Sunderland continued in the Championship for the following season, before winning promotion by winning the second division under McCarthy in 2005. They were relegated again, with a then Premier League record low total of 15 points.

What they said

“[Chelsea coach] Claudio Ranieri told me at the end that he thought they were playing Real Madrid in the first half, which was nice. Now I would like just a win.”

– McCarthy speaking after the ninth successive defeat, a 1-0 loss at the hands of Chelsea


New Jersey Nets

The streak: 18 consecutive defeats to start the 2009-10 NBA regular season

The story

The New Jersey Nets made history for all the wrong reasons with a 0-18 record to start the NBA regular season of 2009-10, beating the record previously held by Miami Heat (1988) and Los Angeles Clippers (1999). The 18th defeat came at home against a Dallas Mavericks side that had Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, the latter himself a Nets player between 2001 and 2008. The Mavs registered a shoot percentage of 90 in the second quarter, where Nets conceded a franchise-record 49 points, in a 117-101 defeat.

What happened next?

The streak came to an end two days later, with Brook Lopez scoring 31 points in a 97-91 win against the Charlotte Bobcats. The rest of the season didn’t pan out very well for the Nets either though — they had two wins in 30 matches and just four in 50, both joint records for poorest records in NBA and a full season in American sport’s regular season (NBA, MLB, NHL) included. The Nets moved their franchise to New York in 2012-13 and have been called the Brooklyn Jets since.

What they said

“You want to try and make history, but not in this way.”

– Devin Harris, Nets’ point guard, after the defeat to Mavericks


Vince Spadea

The streak: 21 straight defeats on ATP tour

The story

Florida-born Vince Spadea lost 21 matches on the ATP Tour between October 1999 and June 2000, the longest losing streak in ATP Tour history in tour-level matches. Ironically, the streak began in a year when he made the Australian Open quarterfinals, his best finish at a major. He also registered wins against Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the first half of the season.

What happened next?

The streak, which led Associated Press to dub him “The Charlie Brown of tennis”, ended in some style — a four-hour five-setter to beat 14th seed Greg Rusedski to win in the first round of Wimbledon.

Spadea won his only tour title in Scottsdale in March 2004 and reached an ATP singles ranking of 18 the following year. He even has an IMDb entry, playing Steve Carrell’s body double as Bobby Riggs in the 2017 film Battle of the Sexes.

What they said

“Pat has been very generous and it has been an amazing experience to work with someone of his playing stature. It [the win] was worth the wait.”

– Spadea thanks 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash of Australia, who worked with him in the run-up to the year’s third major, after beating Rusedski


Bangladesh

The streak: 28 straight losses in internationals

Bangladesh lost a record 28 matches in international cricket between February 2003 and February 2004. It would count as scant consolation that these matches (Tests and ODIs) included assignments as challenging as a World Cup campaign, hosting teams like England and South Africa, as well as their first bilateral contests against Australia. Even worse for Bangladesh, the next three worst losing streaks (24, 23 and 22) also belong to them.

What happened next?

The streak could have ended a lot earlier if Inzamam-ul-Haq hadn’t played one of his most astounding rescue acts at his home ground, guiding Pakistan home in a Test match where they lost half their side under 100 while chasing 261.

That was Bangladesh’s 17th defeat in the sequence, which came to an end against Zimbabwe in a Test match in Bulawayo. Bangladesh were the luckier team this time, as they were bowled out for 168 and the home side were 210 for 2, but three full days were lost to rain.

What they said

“Our target remains the same: individual improvement. If we can end that, we could possibly end our losing streak.”

– Bangladesh’s coach Dav Whatmore reflects on the one-wicket defeat to Pakistan at Multan


Bob Sapp

The streak: 14 consecutive MMA bouts between March 2011 and September 2016

The story

Colorado-born Sapp was actually drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1997 NFL draft, but would go on to make his fame first in kickboxing, before embarking on a mixed martial arts (MMA) career, having also spent some time wrestling in WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. His losing streak began with a TKO to Stav Economou in Abu Dhabi, and six submissions, five TKOs and one disqualification later, he suffered his 14th successive defeat also via TKO, against Aori Gele in Changsha, China.

What happened next?

Sapp returned to kickboxing for a bout in 2017, losing to Greg Tony in Saint Tropez, France, before returning to MMA for a fight against former sumo Osunaarashi (real name Abdelrahman Shalan) in Saitama, Japan in September 2018. The streak was broken with a unanimous decision in favour of Sapp. The fight was anything but inspiring, though. “They stood in front of each other and were too exhausted to do much of anything,” said one website.

What they said

“Am I throwing these fights? No. Will I go into that ring and receive large amounts of damage for small paychecks? No.”

– Sapp, shooting down suggestions that his losing streak had anything with him wanting to secure himself financially by losing on purpose

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