One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1(Chiefly Tennis) a competitor who loses in the qualifying round of a competition, but is given a place in the main draw after the withdrawal of another player through injury, illness, etc.
2A competitor, team, etc., who is not placed highly enough to qualify automatically for the later stages of a competition, but who gains entry by being one of the best-placed losers, or by playing a further knockout round.
1950s; earliest use found in Mirror (Perth).
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