Nicol David has been acknowledged as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) female squash player with a record eight World Championship titles and being the top ranked player in the world for a total of 112 months, 109 months consecutively from (2006-2015). She will call time at the end of the 2018/2019 Professional Squash Association (PSA) season in June. Nicol announced her retirement yesterday, a week before she competes at the World Championships in Chicago, United States from Feb 23-March 2. She caught up with StarSport’s JOASH EE DE SILVA over Skype where she spelled out her retirement plans.
Q: You said you are retiring because the hard work has taken its toll on your body. But would you also say that it is because your competitive nature doesn’t allow you to play second fiddle anymore?
A: I actually started thinking about retiring a year and a half ago. I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my squash and when I took more time to figure that out, I knew that deep down inside I could only give my best, mentally and physically, for two more years. I wanted to give all I got, train my hardest and be ready mentally and be fresh for every single tournament. When I spoke to my coach Liz Irving, she said that she also had the experience of knowing when to go at exactly the right time. That last year and a half, I just knew what I wanted to do and that the time has come.
Q: In the last two years your ranking has dropped to world No. 21. Were you just playing purely for fun or are you disappointed about it since you are no longer at the top?
A: I think my rankings didn’t reflect what I was willing to go for. I approach every tournament I went to with a different perspective.
I knew I was going in to have a good go at my opponents, so just the results don’t show my true ability. But at the same time there were different priorities I had to go through – my own progress and my understanding of what I’m here to do. I was getting a little bit deeper into analysing what to expect in the last year and a half. I acccepted that I had to move on but it was difficult at first. But now, come to think of it, I really came full circle and found that I am so proud of my achievements and I now go out on court to play at my own pace.
Q: What are your best memories?
A: I have so many memories because it’s been almost 20 years playing for Malaysia and competing against the very best at the highest level. The real best moment was when I became world No.1 for nine years and winning eight world titles. But at the same time, the lows are the ones that really matter most, especially when I was not No. 1 and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I struggled through that phase but the fact that I can truly appreciate all those great memories, those wins, those nine years at world No. 1 and when I really understand that when you’re not there (No. 1) that’s when I know how proud I am to achieve all that I have achieved.
Q: Which title would you say was your most memorable be it junior or professional career?
A: My most memorable was winning the world title in 2005, that was my first ever world title and straight after that I was world No. 1 for the very first time – that was my dream-come-true moment. When I won my first world junior title at 15, I know I can be world champion too, and it happened when I was 22, so I think that first world title is the most memorable. My last world title was the match of my career, it will be the one I will always remember. I will forever remember coming back from four match balls to win my eighth world title.
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: No regrets, I have done all that I have done whether good or bad, so I don’t think there is anything that I will ever change to get to where I am right now.
Q: In the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) calendar there is a Malaysian Open in September. It’s already after your plan to retire, would you consider coming back just for one more?
A: Well I have made it very clear with myself that I have this six months left and I’m actually content to give this last bit, I don’t want to do anything halfway.
So if I want to play in Malaysia, I will have to be training through my time off after announcing my retirement and I don’t want to just play without being fully prepared.
Q: So you have said you want to give back to the community, what are your plans?
A: I actually have three plans, I want to fully commit to my foundation (Nicol David Foundation) to empower girls to reach their full potential by using sports to give them the essential tools to move forward. I will also inspire people through motivational talks and opinion write-ups and to have a series of talks related to nurturing beliefs and share my story.
The next thing I’d like to give back is to work closely with the PSA, the women’s tour and to bring the sport to the next level as well. That is what I really want to give back to Malaysian sports.
Q: You have been pushing very hard for squash in the Olympics, what is the progress and how have you been involved in this movement?
A: Well we just launched this campaign where the PSA and the World Squash Federation have come together to push for the inclusion of squash in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. So we are just in the midst of working towards that. I am not fully involved because there are also other top players from France like Camille Serme, who are representing the campaign. It is a global campaign, so all associations and squash fans are gunning for this campaign as one.
Q: Do you have any plans to come back and coach for the national team in the future maybe after you have done all your other plans?
A: I will begin with the plans that I have mentioned. I think on the coaching side, I’ll be happy to share my assistance in some ways – more on motivating and consulting for the coaches. On being a full-time coach, that would give me little time for the rest of things I plan to do, but I’m fully capable of making sure I can use my experience to motivate the national players.
Q: What do you think of the Malaysian junior players and the current crop of players coming through the ranks?
A: I feel that we have very strong junior players who are doing so well in the British Juniors. I don’t think we have had so many finalists and titles coming through and the British Juniors is like the pinnacle of the junior scene around the world.
Malaysia is really setting the bar high and I’m pretty sure they will be the next generation to take forth and progress for the future.
Q: Do you hope that someone will be able to come to your level and achieve what you have accomplished?
A: I always feel like what I’ve done is to inspire people to do something for themselves so they can reach their full potential. I believe they are capable of doing whatever they want, maybe more, you never know.
Q: A personal question and because all your fans will want to know, are you still single and do you ever think of getting married and settling down?
A: At the moment I’m just enjoying life, squash is my first love obviously. I’m just happy to be training right now in Colombia and I just want to enjoy these moments of my squash and give back in many possible ways.