The First Ever All-England Badminton Men’s Singles Champion

Written by Geoff Hinder

The First Ever All-England Badminton Men’s Singles Champion

Sydney Howard Smith
At the first All-England Badminton Championships in 1899 it was only the three doubles events played. So, it was the next year 1900 that the tournament was expanded to two days to include the men’s and woman’s singles.
Sydney Howard Smith from Stroud in Gloucestershire at the age of 28 became the first ever All-England men’s singles champion. In March 1900 almost 300 spectators turned up at the London Scottish Regiment Drill Hall, London’s Buckingham Gate to watch, there were 21 players in the men’s singles event. Unlike today’s rectangular courts, then courts were hourglass-shaped, 40 feet (13.4m) long x 20 feet (6.1m) wide and 16 feet (4.88m) wide at the net.
W. Oakes and Smith had little difficulty in reaching the men’s singles final with Smith beating Oakes 15-12, 11-15, 15-10.
1901 saw Sidney Smith defending his title and was given a bye into the second round where he was dispatched by the eventual winner Capt. H. W. Davies. Smith never entered the All-England again after that.
A type of racket used in early All-England Championships and a Jaques ‘Association First Choice’ ‘barrel’ shuttlecock, so-called because its feathers shape closely resembles a barrel. The shuttlecocks were manufactured in France, and in the early days with no specifications laid down, they suffered from a considerable variation in length of flight, size, weight and uniform strength. This type of shuttlecock was used for the first 10 years of the All-England Championships.
Ethel Thomson

Click on images to enlarge

Like many good badminton players of that time, Sidney Smith was a top-class tennis player, playing a total of 87 matches at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in the men’s singles and doubles from 1893 to 1907. The year that he won the first All-England badminton men’s singles title in 1900 he also won the Wimbledon All-Comers men’s singles final but lost in the Challenge Rounds final.
Wimbledon until 1922 had a system where players would play in the All-Comers tournament, and then the winner would play in the Challenge Rounds final the holder of the title from the previous year, the winner of that final would be the Wimbledon champion.
In the men’s doubles at Wimbledon, Smith with Frank Riseley won the All-Comers final 1902, 1904, 1905 & 1906 and in 1902 & 1906 they won the Challenge Rounds final to be the Wimbledon’s Men’s Doubles Champion.
It tells us in Wimbledon: The Official History of the Championships “Sidney Smith- who, despite or perhaps because of a leg brace covered the court remarkably fast and wielded a forehand that was regarded as the fiercest in the game.”
​Sidney Smith with Ethel Thomson, the first ever All-England Badminton women’s singles champion in 1900, played tennis mixed doubles together and they were the mixed doubles Wimbledon All-Comers tournament winners in 1903 and 1904.
For more information on the history of the All-England Badminton Championships go to – History – Events –  ‘The History of the All-England Badminton Championships’ on this website.



1899 – 2024
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