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Miklos (Nicholas) Szabados (1912–1962)

by R. I. Cashman

This article was published:

Miklos (Nicholas) Szabados (1912-1962), table tennis player, was born on 7 March 1912 in Budapest, younger son of Sandor Szabados, flour-mill manager, and his wife Rose, née Schwartz, a professor of languages and history. After receiving a table tennis set from his mother for his thirteenth birthday, Miklos developed a passion for the game. He won his first major tournament in Hungary in 1927. Attributing his success to hard work and concentration, he defeated his friend Victor Barna for the world championship singles title in 1931. He teamed with Barna to win the doubles title six times, and also won the mixed doubles three times. Szabados played for the Hungarian team that won the Swaythling Cup five times between 1928 and 1935. His outstanding year was 1931: he won all four world events—the singles, doubles and mixed-doubles titles, and the Swaythling Cup. He began studying engineering at the University of Berlin, but, being of part-Jewish descent, fled to Paris in 1933. He coached table tennis players in that city before moving to Britain in 1936.

With Istvan (Stephen) Kelen, Szabados reached Adelaide in August 1937 on a world tour. Sponsored by the New South Wales Table Tennis Association, they played exhibition games in Adelaide and Melbourne, then competed in the Australian championships in Sydney. The Hungarian pair won every match: Szabados defeated Kelen in four sets in the singles title, and they won the doubles in straight sets. Large crowds admired Szabados's clever footwork, good defence, fierce forehand and effective long game. Their tour eventually took them to China, Japan, South Africa, South America, India, Malaya and Java.

Returning to Australia in August 1939, Szabados settled in Sydney. By 1941 he owned a table tennis club in Pitt Street. At Elizabeth Bay, on 26 December that year, he married with Presbyterian forms Marie Alice Bracher, a saleswoman; they had one son, Sandor, before being divorced in 1954. He was called up by the Allied Works Council and served as a mess orderly at Alice Springs, Northern Territory, in 1943-44. Naturalized in 1944, he was also known as Nicholas or Michael.

Of middle height, with wide brown eyes, Szabados was strong and muscular. He won the Australian Table Tennis Championship singles (1950 and 1952), doubles (1950) and mixed doubles (1955). Operating table tennis academies in the city (in the 1940s), Petersham (in the 1950s) and Bondi Junction (from the late 1950s), he was prominent in coaching younger players and in staging exhibitions to popularize the game. Two of his protégés became Australian singles champions—Cliff McDonald (1959, 1964 and 1966) and Michael Wilcox (1963 and 1967). Szabados and his pupils gave many exhibition matches around the State, during which he played with two or three balls at the same time, hit shots from behind his legs, and even returned the ball with his bald head; he developed his own unique stroke, a backhand forehand (hitting with a backhand action on the forehand side). He also played matches with celebrities such as the tennis player Bobby Riggs (1948) and the concert pianist Julius Katchen (1955).

Szabados was a gregarious man who enjoyed cooking, playing cards until late at night and drinking coffee. Survived by his son, he died of pneumonia on 12 February 1962 at Ashfield and was cremated with Anglican rites. In 1987 his name was listed in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Netanya, Israel.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Schiff, Table Tennis Comes of Age (Lond, 1949)
  • J. M. Siegman, The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (NY, 1992)
  • Sports Novels, July 1950, p 26
  • People (Sydney), 3 Jan 1951, p 22
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18, 26 Aug, 10 Sept 1937, 14, 16 Dec 1948, 13 Aug 1949, 11 July 1955, 13 Feb 1962
  • N. Szabados, naturalisation file, A435, item 1944/4/2857 (National Archives of Australia).

Additional Resources

Citation details

R. I. Cashman, 'Szabados, Miklos (Nicholas) (1912–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Szabados, Michael

7 March, 1912
Budapest, Hungary


12 February, 1962 (aged 49)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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