PETALING JAYA: National number one Nicol David will have a tough task in the Texas Open squash tournament in Houston from April 1-4.
Nicol, who is ranked eighth in the world, is the seventh seed and will play against a qualifier in the first round.
But her challenge is expected to end in the quarter-finals. Nicol will be up against world number three Vanessa Atkinson of Holland a player who has beaten her in all three meetings over the last two years.
The last time Nicol played against Atkinson was in the final of the Kuala Lumpur Open last month.
The Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia's (SRAM) executive director, Wong Ah Jit, said that Nicol, who is training under former world champion Liz Irving of Australia in Amsterdam, was not expected to get the better of the Dutchwoman in Houston.
Nicol has made tremendous progress since training under Irving last year but Atkinson is just too good for her.
However, we hope that she will give Atkinson a better run for her money this time, he said.
World number one Cassie Jackman of England is the favourite to win the title and she is tipped to play against world number two Rachael Grinham of Australia in the final.
Another Malaysian, Sharon Wee, who is ranked 20th in the world, has pulled out of the tournament.
Ah Jit said that Sharon, who was to play in the qualifying rounds, decided to continue with her training stint in Amsterdam.
Sharon wants to improve on her game by playing in the Dutch League before getting on the professional circuit again, added Ah Jit.