HUGE TEST FOR NI­COL

Bri­tishOpen­willbe a to­tally dif­fer­ent chal­lenge

New Straits Times - - Sport -

DEVINDER SINGH devinder@nst.com.my

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

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