The World’s First Open (Professional) Badminton Tournament

Written by Geoff Hinder

The World’s First Open (Professional) Badminton Tournament.

Click on images to enlarge.

Prakash Padakone (India) playing Morten Frost Hansen (Denmark) in the Men’s singles final of the world’s first open badminton tournament.

Photo: Peter Richardson

Prakash Padukone would be the first men’s singles winner of the Friends Provident Masters Open. The World’s first open badminton tournament was played in the Royal Albert Hall, London between 19th and 22nd September 1979. The event was the final of the first-ever ‘Masters’ – the world’s inaugural badminton tournament open to both professionals as well as amateurs. 20 of the top players in the world were invited and it was sponsored by Friends Provident. The tournament marked the arrival of Open Badminton and gave players an opportunity to receive money for winning while playing badminton. There had been much debate and heated argument for many years variously described as amateurism, professionalism and sham amateurism. It was at the International Badminton Federation’s AGM in May 1979 that revised rules were adopted, which would not harm aspirations for badminton to become an Olympic sport.

The Badminton Association of England anticipating that Open Badminton was coming had already started planning and was able to stage the First Open Badminton Tournament with the co-operation of Friends Provident Life Office and the Royal Albert Hall only four months later. To receive prize money players had to be licensed. Total prize money distributed in the Men’s Singles and Ladies’ Singles was £7,500 the winner receiving £3,000, while in the Men’s and Ladies’ Doubles prize money totaled £2,850 the winning pair sharing £1,500. The tournament was played in groups of four, singles runners up received £1,500, the second in any group £750, third £500 and fourth £250. In doubles runners up shared £1,500, third in group £400, and fourth £200.

Morten Frost Hansen (Denmark) and Prakash Padakone (India)

Photo: Peter Richardson

 In the men’s singles final Prakash Padakone (India) beat Morten Frost Hansen (Denmark) 15-4, 15-11. The victory was worth £3000.00 (Rs 54,000) in prize money, but Prakash was not even eligible for it, for he had played the tournament as an amateur. The money this time would swell the coffers of the Badminton Association of India (BAI). Only £5,400 of the total £20,700 prize money at stake was retained by players in the World’s first Open tournament, but more importantly, it would usher in an era of badminton with proper prize money and status as in other popular sports, instead of players having to make do with a ‘sham amateur’ status.

None of the players complained about badminton’s new venue despite the occasional dinner table percussion which included the loud popping of a wine bottle cork as Lene Koppen was about to serve in the woman’s final.

Men’s Singles Final: Prakash Padukone (India) bt Morten  Frost Hansen (Denmark) 15-4,15-11.
Women’s Singles Final: Lene Koppen (Denmark) bt Gillian Gilks (England) 12-10, 11-4.
Men’s Doubles Final: Thomas Kihistrom & Bengt Froman (Sweden) bt Ray Stevens & Mike Tredgett (England) 18-16, 15-9.
Women’s Doubles Final: Nora Perry & Jane Webster (England) bt Yoshiko Yonekura & Atsuko Tokuda (Japan)

Men’s Singles Final: Prakash Padukone (India) bt Morten  Frost Hansen (Denmark) 15-4,15-11.
Women’s Doubles Final: Yoshiko Yonekura & Atsuko Tokuda (Japan) (Left) and Nora Perry & Jane Webster (England).

Photo: – Peter Richardson

Men’s Doubles Final: Thomas Kihistrom & Bengt Froman (Sweden) beat Ray Stevens & Mike Tredgett (England) 18-16, 15-9.

Photo: – Louis Ross.


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