What Wimbledon is to tennis, the All England Championship is to badminton, with both serving as the oldest and most prestigious tournaments for their respective disciplines. It all started after the success of the world’s first Open tournament staged in Guildford in 1898, which opened the avenue for the All England Championships. The first edition of the tournament was held a year later, in 1899, at the HQ London Scottish Regiment Drill Hall, Buckingham Gate.
Interestingly, the inaugural edition featured only three events – men’s singles, women’s singles, and mixed doubles, but singles events were subsequently inducted in the following season. The first two seasons were touted as the "Badminton Association Tournament", following which it got the traditional and the popular name.
The glamor of the tournament reached its pinnacle after the first Thomas Cup in 1949, when the All England was considered the unofficial World Badminton Championships until 1977. Following which, the International Badminton Federation (now BWF) launched its official championships. Ask any player during that era, the All England title was the trophy they ever dreamed of laying their hands on.
Until 1979, when the curtains were drawn on the Amateur Era, the tournament was the showpiece event of every season, barring 1915-1919 and 1940-1946, when it was stalled due to World War I and World War II respectively.
The 1980 edition of the All England Open marked the world’s first open badminton tournament, with India’s Prakash Padukone clinching top honors in the men’s singles event with a dominating win over Denmark’s Morten Frost Hansen.
A blast from the past
Sydney H. Smith of England was the first-ever winner of the men’s singles title back in 1900, while Ethel Thomson Larcombe claimed the maiden women’s singles title.
Previously, in 1899, the year it all started, the English pair of D.W. Oakes and Steward Mardsen Massey laid hands on the trophy in the men’s doubles event, while the duo of Mary Violet Graeme Muriel Lucas won the women’s doubles on their own soil. D.W. Oakes and Daisey St. John, also from England, became the first-ever winners in the mixed doubles event in the same year.
The current status
The All England Open is now part of the HSBC BWF World Tour Super 1000, which carries huge weightage and offers ranking points for the shuttlers to qualify for the BWF Super Series Finals, held every year in December.
The upcoming edition, which is set to begin later this week, will serve as vital preparation time ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, especially with players devoid of international action, owing to the pandemic.
The All England Open now offers 12,000 points for the winner of each event, while runners-up are entitled to 10,200 points each. Meanwhile, the subsequent rounds fetch 8400 (semi-final), 6600 (quarter-final), 4800 (round of 16) and 3000 (round of 32). However, the tournament will not be calculated in qualification rankings for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, which is set to get underway on July 23.
The upcoming event possesses a total purse of $850,000, with the winners to be awarded a handsome $59,500 for singles events, while $62,900 has been allotted for claiming top-honours in the doubles events, with the prize rolling down to the Round of 32 players.
The All England Open 2021
The 2021 All England Open will be held from March 17-21 at the Arena Birmingham.
Denmark’s Victor Axelesen has been awarded the top-seed in the men’s singles event this season, while Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara is slated to be the top player in the women's singles after world no.1 Carolina Marin withdrew from the tournament recently.
Indonesian pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are top-seeded for the men’s doubles event, with Japan’s Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota starting as top contenders for the women’s doubles event. Indonesian duo Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti have been given top-seed in the mixed doubles event.