The Ultimate Loser

There’s something beautiful about a tournament bracket. And if you disagree BOY are you on the wrong website.

The simple, ordered march of many down to one, the field halving in size each time. If it’s seeded the slow incline of the favourites cruising up the edges, squeezing everybody else out. If it isn’t, the madness of seeing competitors who shouldn’t be battling it out this earlier crunching into each other and letting lesser opposition sneak underneath. And, for me at least, the very easy opportunity to work out who in each particular tournament was the biggest loser.

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If in the first round of a tournament you play the eventual winner  then you can sorta, kinda claim that you *MIGHT* have been the second best player in the tournament. After all, you just happened to meet the best player in round one. Who knows what would have happened if you’d had a bit of a run at it and avoided them altogether, or at least until the final. But you didn’t, you got lumped with them from the off. And so now you’re here playing Fortnite and gorging on olives (it’s how I imagine off duty tennis stars).

The Ultimate Loser is the opposite. The person with the least claim to have been done over because the person they lost to in the first round went on to lose in the second round to someone who lost in the third and so on right up through the defeated finalist. What makes tournament brackets so beautiful is they’re easy to work back to this point. Easy to work back to one solitary hero who started a chain of destruction that is as impressive as anything the champion can offer up on their run to victory.

Let’s celebrate two of those heroes from Wimbledon 2018, for example.

In the men’s singles Kevin Anderson lost to Novak Djokovic in the final. He had previously beaten John Isner, who had beaten Milos Raonic in the QF. His previous victim was Mackenzie McDonald who had beaten Guido Pella in R3 after the Argentine has despatched with Marin Cilic (the third seed!) in R2. The unlucky plucky loser to Cilic in round one? Yoshihito Nishioka, the 22nd year old Japanese world no. 259. Take your loser’s crown and wear it with pride.

In the women’s singles Serena Williams was the beaten finalist. She had knocked out Julia Gorges in the semis who had ended the dreams of Kiki Bertens in the quarters. That followed Bertens’ win over Ka Polskova who had in turn beaten Mihaela Buzarnescu in R3. In the second round local lass Katie Swan failed to get past Buzarnescu having beaten… drum roll please… Aryna Sabalenka in the first round. Please take a moment to applaud the 2o year old Belorussian and world no 32.

Of course, *technically* other people didn’t even make the main draw dropping out in qualifying. But there’s no glory in losing before the TV cameras are up and running.

And of course you can do this for any tournament at all. You can go back through the years at Wimbledon (in 2017 Zheng Saisai took the crown in the women’s singles, in 2016 the men’s singles Ultimate Loser was Santiago Giraldo, a worthy foil to home-turf winner Andy Murray), you can apply it to any other sport you choose…

True champions, one and all.