HUGE TEST FOR NICOL
BritishOpenwillbe a totally different challenge
DEVINDER SINGH firstname.lastname@example.org
NICOL David’s return to the winners’ circle comes as a welcome relief to the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) who are suddenly faced with a thinning of the playing ranks.
This is no more alarming than when SRAM were forced into naming three junior women’s players for the Asian Individual Championships in Chennai on Apr 26-28.
While Nicol has opted not to defend her Asian title, the eighttime world champion will have to continue carrying the Malaysian flag for a while yet following the retirement of national champion Delia Arnold and the injury-enforced absence of former World No 5 Low Wee Wern.
Which is why Nicol’s win in Colombia on Saturday, which ended a 15-month title drought on the PSA Tour, could not have come at a better time with the British Open fast approaching.
While the absence of the world’s leading players should in no way devalue Nicol’s win at the Ciudad de Floridablanca tournament, the former World No 1 may feel she still has something to prove at the British Open where all of the top 10 players, minus the injured American Amanda Sobhy, will be in Hull.
“It’s a long overdue win and gives her the confidence to do well in future,” SRAM director of coaching Mej (rtd) S. Maniam told Timesport yesterday.
“But if you go deeper into it, Nicol realises that to do well at the British Open she will have to take on the top guns who were not there in Colombia.
“While it is excellent to be back on top of the podium and win a title after a long while, Nicol is aware that in the big events she has to assess her position a bit differently.
“She is an extremely experienced player and she knows this better than anyone else. She always says she takes each game at a time and she will analyse each player she has to play and that is the big test.”
Now ranked seventh in the world, Nicol is drawn in the same quarter as World No 2 Camille Serme of France in the bottom half and could then face fourth seed Nouran Gohar of Egypt in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Maniam said 20-yearold Rachael Arnold will lead the women’s squad for the Asian Championships which also includes juniors Andrea Lee, Zoe Foo and Aifa Azman.
The country’s top junior S. Sivasangari, the World No 47, is not selected as she will be sitting for O-level examinations at the same time, meaning the country’s two highest-ranked available players will be missing from the tournament.
National men’s No 1 Nafiizwan Adnan, the Asian champion in No 1, leads a full-strength men’s squad which includes Ivan Yuen, Ng Eain Yow and Syafiq Kamal.
“Our targets for the event is a podium finish for the men and at least a quarter-finals finish for the young girls,” said Maniam, adding that it would be good preparation for the girls for the World Junior Championships in July.
While it is excellent to be back on top of the podium and win a title after a long while, Nicol is aware that in the big events she has to assess her position a bit differently.
MEJ (RTD) S. MANIAM