Eight-time World Champion Nicol David has established herself as an icon in her native Malaysia and will go down as one of the greatest ever players to pick up a squash racket after achieving an unprecedented nine-year reign at the summit of the women’s game.
The 32-year old relinquished her position at the top of the world rankings to Egypt’s Raneem El Welily in September 2015 and fell to her lowest ranking in a decade at World No.3 due to a few lean months towards the end of last year. However, a virtuoso display in December’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open saw David lift her 10th Hong Kong Open title in her 100th PSA World Tour final.
In an interview with Egyptian legend Amr Shabana’s YouTube Channel, MaestroSquashTV, David discussed her remarkable career, explaining how she became interested in squash and what it takes to maintain your position as the best player in the world for such a long time.
“It started off with my sisters, they would play most days,” said David.
“I first got involved when I was around five. I was always running around and a squash court was the only way of keeping me in one place. They just locked the door and gave me a racket and a ball.
“They were incredibly instrumental in my development. They did a bit of coaching and helped out with the junior development programme. I was part of that at the time.
“It was great, they always went on court with me when I wanted to practice, even though they were bigger and stronger than me.”
David’s ability was evident at an early age after becoming the first player to win the World Junior Championship twice in 1999 and 2001, the first of which she won at just 15 years of age.
Nicol David lifts a 10th consecutive Hong Kong Open crown
A year later, the Malaysian superstar teamed up with compatriot and former Men’s World No.7 Ong Beng Hee in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games Doubles event. Together, they claimed a silver medal and David highlighted the importance of their success there as it resulted in extra funding.
“We slowly started getting recognition and funding thanks to the Commonwealth Games,” she said to Shabana.
“Other countries were beginning to become successful and we began to follow suit.”
Like many top athletes, sacrifices have to be made, and David is no different. To improve her game and knowledge of the sport, she moved to Amsterdam to join up with her current coach Liz Irving – a decision she credits with elevating her career to another level.
“I was always doing well in the juniors and winning tournaments,” Penang-born David recalled.
“But I think the breakthrough moment for me was moving to Amsterdam and working with Liz. She gave me a great insight into the sport. She opened my mind up in completely different dimensions.
“To be the best you have to be totally open. Sometimes you have to break things down and start from nothing. I worked on my strengths and Liz changed my movements and I knew if I stuck to this I would go places in the sport.
“I try to watch clips from the best players in all sports, to see what they do to keep up their intensity and to try take that into my own game.”
David bowed out of the recent J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at the semi-final stage – just two victories away from a title win that would have seen her reclaim the World No.1 spot from current incumbent Laura Massaro, the woman she defeated in Hong Kong.
The enthralling battle for top spot is set to resume later this month at the Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company where David, now at World No.2, Massaro and World No.3 El Welily will all be in action, while vital points on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings are also up for grabs. The penultimate Women’s PSA World Series event of the year begins on Thursday February 25 and sees David paired off with a qualifier in round one.
For more from Shabana's 'All Access' series, head to his YouTube channel where you can see a host of interviews with some of the world’s leading players – including current World Champion Gregory Gaultier, Indian No.2 Dipika Pallikal and World No.3 Nick Matthew.
By James Hall
- Watch live action from the Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company on SQUASHTV. Click here to subscribe