New Straits Times

NICOL WILL BOUNCE BACK

SRAM expect player to return to world top 10

- FADHLI ISHAK fadhli.ishak@nstp.com.my

SQUASH Racquets Associatio­n of Malaysia (SRAM) are optimistic Nicol David will be able to reach the last-eight at the US Open Squash Championsh­ips and put herself on track to making a swift return to the top-10 in the world rankings.

SRAM director of coaching Major (Rtd) S. Maniam, believes Nicol, who is seeded ninth in the US$169,000 (RM700,000) PSA platinum level event, should be able to navigate the early rounds which starts tomorrow.

She has been given a bye for the first round and will play either Australian Donna Lobban or Olivia Fiechter of US in the second round, before a potential clash with England’s Laura Massaro in the third round.

“I believe Nicol should be able to win her second round match but playing Laura will be tougher,” said Maniam, when contacted earlier today (Thursday).

“Nicol lost to her (Laura) in San Francisco (quarter-finals) earlier this week, but had beaten Laura in their previous encounter at the China Open last month.

“It is not going to be easy for either player, but Nicol can win. It will be very close and only the better player of the day will prevail.

“It is hard to say whether reaching the quarter-finals will be enough for her to go back into the top-10, as we have to see how the other players fare. But this is a platinum level event and there are a lot of points on offer so the possibilit­y is there.”

Should everything go according to plan, Nicol, who is the only Malaysian in the women’s competitio­n, will likely face Egyptian second-seed Raneem El Welily in the quarterfin­als.

While admitting Nicol may no longer be the untouchabl­e player she once was, Maniam stressed that she remains a feared figure on the World Tour.

“Gone are the days when players would count how many points they could take off Nicol (before they lost), you have to accept that as you age, your physical abilities decline. It is human nature,” added Maniam.

“But dropping out of the top 10 is hardly the end for her, she still has a lot left to offer.

“Nicol is the greatest player to have graced the (women’s) game and her reputation precedes her. Players still fear her because they know she can still pull a rabbit out of the hat.”

The Penangite, who turned 35 in August, dropped from ninth to 11th in the latest world rankings released earlier this week, marking an end to a 15-year run in the top-10.

Ng Eain Yow is the nation’s sole representa­tive in the men’s event at the US Open and will open against Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung in the first round tomorrow.

“Tsz Fung will be the favourite on paper though as he proved just how good he is at the Indonesia Asian Games,” added Maniam.

Tsz Fung is ranked 27th while Eain Yow, who was part of the Malaysian team which unexpected­ly defeated Hong Kong for gold at the Asian Games, is 42nd.

 ??  ?? Nicol David
Nicol David

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