Malaysia's No. 1 women's squash player Nicol David attending the Laureus Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur in March, will be hoping to win another British Open title when the tournament begins on Tuesday.
LONDON (AFP): World No. 1 Nicol David could hardly be more fortunate than to have the British Open as her restart event this week after the trauma of losing the world title in front of her home crowd in Penang last month.
The venerable 92-year-old British Open, which begins on Tuesday, is one of few which may not feel anti-climactic by comparison, and one of fewer still in which the pressure upon Nicol is reduced.
For once she is not the titleholder, which may help her look forward to a possible showdown with Laura Massaro, the Englishwoman who beat her in last year’s final and became her successor as world champion.
Nicol, who has been world number one for nearly eight years, remains the top seed, and the draw suggests she should meet Massaro in Sunday’s final.
That would not only give Nicol the earliest possible opportunity of some kind of atonement, but perhaps create a rarity of more demands being heaped upon her opponent than upon her.
Massaro lives only 120 miles from the Yorkshire venue, which should attract a noisy home crowd craving a home champion who brings them more success.
No one knows better than Nicol how that can feel.
“It’s great that the pressure is not on me this time,” she said happily. “I can probably enjoy myself more, and enjoy the game more.”
How quickly Nicol recovers from failing to win an eighth world title, which others unwisely regarded as her destiny, may depend on her attitude to what has been perhaps her most painful setback.
It is evident that she has been paying attention to it.
“Losses will always happen,” Nicol said. “It is about how you manage them for the next time. At this level, there is little room to slip up. Things will not go your way every time.”
Nicol may have tried to do too much in Penang – her PR schedule was draining.
“When it doesn’t go your way, you make things more consistent and more refined with everything you do,” she said after her de-brief with long-time coach Liz Irving.
“I trained really hard at the beginning of the year, and leading up to the worlds. I can benefit from that, if I keep building on it.”
Massaro too has been working on a mindset to cope with the pressure, which for her may reach new levels.
“I do see myself as defending champion,” she acknowledged.
“But my achievement in winning the British Open is amazing. I didn’t think I would achieve that. I have that title under my belt, which a lot of people don’t have.
“So in some ways the pressure is off. It’s nice not to have pressure, but I want to defend the title and do as well as I possibly can.
“At the same time I am number two and (Nicol) is number one, so she will be favourite. So all the expectation will be on her.”