PETALING JAYA: The long road back to the top begins at the Malaysian Women's Open next week for national squash queen Nicol David.
And she is in a hurry. Nicol is likely to play in eight tournaments before the end of the year as she bids to break into the top 15.
Nicol was world No. 16 two months before the Busan Asian Games last September. She slipped to 18th by the end of the Games and took a long break after that. She is now ranked 39th.
SRAM secretary general Lt Kol (rtd) Wong Ah Jit said he expected Nicol to break into the top 15 if her results were favourable. “She has to reach at least the quarter-finals of a few big events,” said Ah Jit.
The gruelling schedule also includes another three-month stint in Amsterdam with Liz Irwing, scheduled to begin in September after the Malaysian Open. Nicol had a training stint with Irwing earlier this year.
In late September, the two-time former world junior champion will be taking part in the British Open. In October, Nicol will be contesting in the Weymuller Open in New York.
The last two months will be a test of endurance as she takes part in three tournaments - Grasshopper Open (Switzerland), Dutch Open and Monte Carlo Open in November followed by the Qatar Open and World Open scheduled for December.
The World Open will be held in the second week of December in Hong Kong.
According to national head coach Raymond Arnold, Nicol has been working on her technique with Irwing in their earlier training stint.
“She has been working on her forehand. Her racquet is now open wider before she executes the forehand shots but she has not completely adapted to this new technique. It's very important that she completely masters it because it will make it easier to execute the shots,” said Arnold.
Arnold expects Nicol to perform well in the Malaysian Open despite having to quality for the main draw.
“She should easily qualify for the main draw, “ said Arnold. “She has not been playing enough tournaments and that's why her world ranking has been sliding. If the draw is favourable, I would expect Nicol to reach the last four,” said Arnold.
Ah Jit added that in the last two tournaments in June, Nicol has shown that she was regaining her form.
“She went the distance with two top players,” said Ah Jit.
Nicol took Australian world No. 3 Racheal Grinham to five games, losing 9-5, 8-10, 4-9, 9-2, 2-9 in the Heliopolis Open while in the Hurghada Open, she went down in four games to world No. 4 Linda Charman of England 9-7, 6-9, 6-9, 3-9.