Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Excited but cautious

WORLD OPEN: Nicol to take it one match at a time despite home advantage

EVERYTHING seems to point towards an eighth title for Nicol David when the Women's World Championship begins in her own backyard today.

After finding no takers last year, the WSA Tour found a saviour for the 2013 edition of the tournament when Penang decided to take on the responsibility of hosting the prestigious event.
The drive to hold the tournament at the Spice Arena in Bayan Baru is to provide Nicol a chance to defend the world title in front of her home fans.

Factor in Nicol's unbeaten run of 39 matches since last May, winning two tournaments this year without dropping a game and the invincible aura she displays on court, and the outcome might as well be a foregone conclusion.

But Nicol is not one to take things for granted, not when expectations weigh heavily on her, to the extent that the World No 1 even skipped a WSA Tour event in Chicago to focus her energies on this week.

"So far after two tournaments in the United States, I managed to get in two-and-a-half weeks of full training in Amsterdam," said Nicol, 30, yesterday before taking her turn to practice on the glass court at Spice Arena with coach Liz Irving.

"For me it's all about planning and preparing and having the time to train is one of the big priorities before coming here," added Nicol in explaining her decision to skip the Windy City Open earlier this month, won by World No 2 Laura Massaro.

"I have to be careful not to rush and overload on the tournaments.
"There are many big events coming up with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Teams and Asian Championships.

"That is why I have to be quite specific about my schedule and find the time to train."
When Nicol takes to the court today, just after the opening ceremony which the organisers say "will blow minds away", memories of winning her second world junior title in Bukit Dumbar 13 years ago will come flooding back.

Nicol also won the Penang Open in 2006 and the Asian Championship in 2011 in her other successes in her home state.

"That was fantastic," she said of her 2001 win. "It was my second world junior title and I was very emotional.

"To win it in Penang was special and now to have the World Championship here 13 years later is a remarkable feat."

As ever, Nicol would make no bold predictions, preferring to focus on her opening match against England's Emma Beddoes, the 2013 Penang Women's Open winner.

"I am only anticipating the first round. I get in after the opening ceremony and I'm excited to be playing," said Nicol, who beat Emma in straight games at the 2009 Carol Weymuller Open and 2010 Qatar Classic in their only previous meetings.

The 16 first round ties are split into two days with the top-half swinging into action today.

The competition begins with fourth seed Alison Waters taking on India's Joshna Chinappa at 1pm while Australian Rachael Grinham, the only other player in the field aside from Nicol to have won the world title in 2007, meets Nicolette Fernandes of Guyana.

Nicol David

Read more: SQUASH: Excited but cautious - Other - New Straits Times

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