WHEN five-year-old Nicol David tagged along with her two older sisters – Lianne, then 10, and Cheryl, then seven – to play squash some 16 years ago, little did anyone realise that she would one day become a top player and do her country proud.
The diminutive youngster has since developed into a world–class squash player and has broken into the top three world ranking.
It is indeed a great achievement for Nicol who is just 21 years old. Currently based in Squash City, Amsterdam, Nicol’s third-placed world ranking is the best ever position by a Malaysian sportsperson.
The world-ranking list was released on Wednesday by the International Squash Players’ Association (Wispa).
With this third placing, Nicol has achieved another milestone in her career. She is already the highest-ranked Asian woman squash player.
While playing about in the squash courts at Bukit Dumbar in Jelutong, Penang (now the Penang International Squash Centre), Nicol’s talent was spotted by Penang junior development officer Ee Phoeh Hoon, who encouraged her to try her hand at the game. And Nicol has never looked back since.
When contacted in Penang, Desmond David, Nicol’s father, said he was very proud of his youngest daughter’s achievement. While admitting that he was surprised at Nicol’s quick move, he said it was a step forward for Nicol’s squash career.
“The family spoke to her on Wednesday night about the world-ranking list and she too was excited over the news,” said Desmond.
Nicol herself was not aware of the news as she was busy playing in a tournament in Amsterdam, he said.
A social squash player himself, Desmond said his daughters took up the game because they were interested in sports. Lianne, 27, and Cheryl, 24, now train and coach at a squash centre in Penang.
“Nicol was hyperactive and the squash court was the place to keep her busy,” Desmond said with a laugh.
Now, after more than 15 years of volleying and rallying around the squash court, Nicol’s perseverance and hard work have certainly paid off, judging from her achievements.
Her continuous progress and maturity in reading her opponent’s game was evident when she won the Kuwait Open in March this year, beating one of the top 10 ranked players, Natalie Grainger of the United States.
“When I got to the court, Natalie started off at a furious pace and I had to just try to hold on to her and slow the rhythm down to where I could play my own game,” Nicol told www.squashtalk.com after winning the title.
Among her other titles are the world junior champion (twice, in 1999 and 2001), Asian champion (four times, in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004), Commonwealth Games silver medallist (2002), Asian Games gold medallist (2002) and World Open semi-finalist (2004).
Other than the Kuwait Open, Nicol also won the KL Open and reached the semi-finals of the Qatar Open in April this year.
Sharing the joy of Nicol’s achievement is the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), whose executive director Wong Ah Jit said the association was very happy with Nicol’s continuous progress.
“We will be there to give support and encouragement for her to continue her fine run,” Wong said.
To maintain her current ranking, Wong said Nicol must do well in the Dutch Open and Malaysian Open (July 27-30) to break away from fourth-ranked Natalie Grinham of Australia. Nicol’s points were quite close to those of Natalie’s, Wong said.
Did you find this article insightful?