It's still early in the year and Nicol has vowed to return to winning ways in the British Open in May. - Filepic
GEORGE TOWN: Like it or not, the recently-concluded 29th Women’s World Championship was all about one player – world No. 1 Nicol David.
While it was unfortunate that Nicol fell at the semi-final hurdle, at least Penangites finally had the opportunity to watch their very own sporting icon in action at the highest level.
It’s also pleasing to see the local crowd – about 4,000 of them – thronging the SPICE Arena for the final between world No. 2 Laura Massaro and 18-year-old Nour El Sherbini, the conqueror of Nicol in the last four.
Full credit to Massaro for being able to stay focused at the crucial moments and playing a tactically brilliant game to win her first world title.
In doing so, she became only the third Englishwoman – after Martine le Moignan in 1989 and Cassie Jackman in 1999 – to lift the world crown.
Despite Massaro’s feat, it was Nicol’s loss and the emergence of three-time world junior champion Sherbini as possibly the next dominating force in women’s squash that became the focal talking points.
“Sherbini has always been a top player. She has been up there before and even made the final of the British Open (in 2012). She is definitely one to look out for,” said Nicol.
Even Massaro, who needed all her guile and experience to get the better of Sherbini in the final, admitted that the Alexandria-born player is definitely the future of women’s squash.
“She’s already a three-time world junior champion – and that’s a record – and a finalist at both the British Open and now the worlds. She’s definitely the future, isn’t she?
“I’m just glad I managed to beat her,” said Massaro.
Meanwhile Nicol, who turns 31 in August, has promised to bounce back from this latest setback.
“No one really wants to lose, especially in the worlds. And to lose at home is really hard to take,” said Nicol.
“It’s obviously disappointing because I wanted to do so much better but the pressure was there and I had to force my game at times.
“But that’s the way it is sometimes. I’ll just have to come back as a better and stronger player next time.
“Right now I just have to let it all sink in and then work harder for the next tournament.
“I always learn something new from every match, so it’s back to the drawing board as I analyse what went wrong and put it together for the next tournament.
“Luckily, this is only just the start of the year ... there’s time for me to work on my game.”
Nicol, who will be attending the Laureus World Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, will next compete in the prestigious British Open from May 10-18 in Hull.
Three-time British Open champion Nicol lost to Massaro in the final last year. She, however, recovered from that loss to go on a 10-month unbeaten streak which ended last Saturday.
Can she do the same again? Stay tuned.