Nicol David (right) and Amr Shabana after winning their respective finals at the Tournament of Champions. - SquashPics.com
PETALING JAYA: Malaysian squash queen Nicol David claimed her first title of the year after beating England’s Laura Massaro in the final of the Tournament of Champions (TOC) at the Grand Central Station in New York on Friday.
Seven-time world champion Nicol was in complete control, scoring an 11-4, 13-11, 11-8 win.
The 30-year-old Penangite got off to a strong start to win the first set 11-4 before Massaro, who defeated Nicol twice last year, fought back to lead 7-2 in the second.
Nicol, however, reeled off six straight points to turn it around before making the most of her opportunities to win the second set. In the end, Nicol was just too sharp for Massaro as she romped to victory in 45 minutes.
It was Nicol’s second straight win over world No. 2 Massaro on American soil following the US Open success last October. With the TOC crown in her bag, Nicol now has 72 titles in the Women’s Squash Association (WSA) Tour.
More importantly, it was a perfect morale boosting win for Nicol in her build-up to the Women’s World Championships in Penang from March 14-21.
“In the first set, both of us were figuring out how the ball was going to react. It got faster as the match progressed and I was able to play some good, low attacking shots,” said Nicol.
“In the second, I just kept telling myself to keep on going because I wanted to win this title badly.
“It’s really a great win because it’s always so difficult to play Laura. She’s the world No. 2 and I was expecting a tough battle.
“To win 3-0 really feels a lot more because playing in the TOC is a memorable experience ... it feels like playing in the Grand Slam of tennis, with a landmark like the Grand Central Station right smacked in the middle of Manhattan.
“For me, that is something that I will take on board for the year and I’m definitely looking forward to playing in more events like this,” added Nicol.
In the men’s final, four-time world champion Amr Shabana of Egypt played a superb match in dominating world No. 1 Gregory Gaultier of France to win 11-8, 11-3, 11-4.
The win means the 34-year-old Shabana is the oldest player to win a Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour World Series event. En route to the title, the crafty Egyptian also scored wins over world champion Nick Matthew and former world No. 1 James Willstrop.
“Everything came together for me this week. You can do all the training but you still need things to go your way and that’s what happened for me,” said Shabana, fondly known as The Maestro.