Nicol rides out turbulent season
Posted on December 17, 2009, Thursday
Squash queen still on top despite losing four of 11 major tournaments in 2009
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian squash queen Datuk Nicol David, who suffered a turbulent season in which she lost four of 11 major competitions, still prevailed to take a step into stardom by winning her fourth consecutive World Open title and Wispa World Player of the Year, for the fourth time.Nicol, also known as ‘Duracell Bunny’ for her endurance, power and perseverance despite her petite physique, also maintained her world number one ranking for the 41st consecutive month (since August 2006).
The 26-year-old’s loss to her nemesis and nearest rival Jenny Duncalf of England twice at the end of the season was regarded by many as an indicator that her reign at the top may be under serious threat next season.
Duncalf’s wins also saw her climb four places from her previous sixth position to second in the world rankings.
“We must look at Nicol’s losses from a positive angle. Sometimes, losing may also lead to some good things. After this Nicol will be able to assess her game because it is not easy to remain as the world number one.
“We have so many people behind us, waiting for an opportunity to beat us. I was informed that during both her loses to Duncalf, Nicol was injured but I have not received any report yet,” National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Zolkples Embong told Bernama.
Nicol’s first loss to Duncalf came in the semi-finals of the Carol Weymuller Open championship in New York, United States (Nov 5-8) and a week later she suffered another loss to her at the same stage of the Qatar Classic (Nov 19-23), in five sets.
“I lacked confidence in my shots. I tried and gave all I had. That took a lot of energy and at the end, I just hit the wall. She (Duncalf) played extremely well. I just have to come back next year to try and win the title.
“I will have to go back to the drawing board to get my confidence and also improve my game,” Nicol was quoted in the www.squashsite.co.uk, after her match at Qatar Classic.
Nicol’s first taste of defeat in the 2009 season was against the then world number two Natalie Grainger of the US in the final of the Kuala Lumpur Squash Open in March.
Her most shocking defeat must surely be the one against unheralded Madeline Perry of Ireland in the quarter-finals of the British Open on Sept 14.
But although at first glance, Nicol’s 2009 season can be regarded as poor by her high standards, there was no denying that she deserved the due recognition accorded to her when the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil was named Arena Nicol David, an accolade which made her parents Desmond David and mother Ann Marie very proud.
“It is indeed a very big honour and recognition for me when the squash centre was given my name. I was shocked because I had never dreamt of such a possibility, but the announcement by the government was both meaningful and significant to me,” said Nicol with eyes full of tears.
Arena Nicol David was officially opened by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek after the Cabinet approved the ministry’s proposal to name sporting venues after athletes who had contributed vastly to the country.
“Pressure keeps mounting whether you like it or not. If you don’t succeed, keep trying and learn from your mistakes.
“For me, positive thinking is the best way to avoid pressure but I know pretty well that avoiding pressure is not easy,” said Nicol.
Nicol, a product of SportsExcel and the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia’s structured development programme, turned professional in 2000 and has since won 41 titles worldwide.
Last year was Nicol’s most productive and successful year thus far as she won 10 major titles, including the World Open.
To put icing on the cake of a great season, the women’s world squash body named her as Wispa Player of the Year for 2008. — Bernama