Sydney Howard Smith was born on 3rd February 1872 in Stroud, Gloucestershire and was a successful tennis and badminton player. As with many of the players at the turn of the century he played badminton in the winter and tennis in the summer and excelled at both. He won the men’s singles, the first year that singles was included, in the Badminton Association restricted Tournament taking the title in 1900 – the following year the tournament became an Open Tournament and was then known as the All England Badminton Championships, and Sydney Smith is therefore regarded as the first winner of the All England men's singles title.
After this success he dropped out of badminton, but continued to have much success on the tennis courts. Between 1902 and 1906 he and Frank Risely played the Doherty brothers in the Wimbledon tennis finals, winning in 1902 and 1906 but losing on the other three occasions. He won the mixed in 1903 and 1904 and was runner up in the singles in 1900 losing to Reggie Doherty. He was a member of the British Davis Cup team in 1905 and 1906.
However, something that we have learned as a result of query from Gloucestershire archives is that he had to play in a leg iron. It is recorded that anything he lacked in getting to the ball was made up with the ferocity of his forehand which he played like a pile driver that was dubbed as the Smith Punch!
This remarkable man whose name is the first recorded All England badminton men’s singles winner, and although in badminton there is less court to cover with a bad leg it was in lawn tennis that he recorded much more success.
He died on 27th March 1947 in Stroud.
We have been unable to trace a picture of Sydney Smith, but include a cartoon by Charles Ambrose - he made a series of cartoons of many of the early badminton players.