THE main talking point after the CIMB KL Open, which concluded last week, was world No. 1 Nicol David’s performance.
It’s unusual to see Nicol losing before the final, what more on home ground.
Her defeat in the semi-finals – to England’s Laura Massaro – marks the first time since 2004 that she has failed to make the final of a tournament in Malaysia.
She last failed to make the final on home ground when she lost to Natalie Grinham in the semi-finals of the World Open in 2004.
Critics have been quick to round up on Nicol, saying she’s on the decline due to her age and that her efforts to garner support for squash’s Olympic 2020 bid are distracting her.
Nicol’s decision not to compete in the Asian individual championship, which will be held in Islamabad, Pakistan from May 1-5, has also been criticised by some.
So, is Nicol’s game really on the downward spiral?
Sure, she may have surrendered her KL crown to Massaro but it wasn’t like she went down without a fight.
Nicol was actually sharp and focused that whole week – easily dispatching top players like Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egypt) and Jenny Duncalf (England) prior to making the semi-finals.
It just so happened that world No. 3 Massaro, who was in even better form, played the right tactics after going a set down to turn the match around.
So, it’s not right to say that Nicol has become a bad player overnight. A defeat like this happens every now and then and Nicol is aware of it too.
If the Penangite, who turns 30 in August, is indeed past her peak, she would not have won a record seventh world title – and in some style too, if I may add – last December.
Anyway, age is not really a factor as far as Nicol’s form is concerned. Massaro is turning 30 this year too!
Nicol has been a model professional throughout her career and takes really good care of her physical condition.
At the rate she’s going, it’s not impossible for her to extend her career well into her late 30s.
If anything, a defeat like this will only serve to motivate Nicol even more and it’s also good for the sport – with more players challenging her dominance and making the matches more interesting.
I would also like to praise Nicol for deciding to skip the Asian meet in order to concentrate on the British Open.
She has already won the Asian title a record eight times, so why not let the younger players, like world No. 6 Low Wee Wern, give it a shot instead.
The Asian meet is just too close to the British Open – one of the most prestigious squash tournaments in the world – which will be held from May 18-26.
With Pakistan having issues about safety concerns, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) did the right thing by letting their players choose whether to compete or not.
Nicol chose not to. It’s her choice. Others should learn to respect her decision.
The real question though should be directed at the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) for allowing the tournament to continue to be held in Pakistan despite safety concerns.
All said and done, Nicol’s recent blip is but a minor hiccup and she is sure to bounce back in style.
Hopefully, it’ll be at the British Open.
Perhaps then the doomsayers will get off her back.