World champion Nicol David has been using new methods of coping with increasingly hard demands at the age of 32 as she begins her bid to regain the British Open title on Monday.
Although the enduringly popular Malaysian’s standard has not obviously dipped much since her record 103 months as world number one ended last year, she won only one title in 2015 and is seeded second this week.
There have never been so many women been capable of winning the big titles, which creates tougher sequences of matches than ever before — something she is concerned to cater for as she seeks to win the world’s oldest tournament a sixth time.
“It’s really about looking after my body. It’s going to be my vehicle for prolonging my career and seeing how far I can go,” David said, explaining how her plans and her habits are evolving.
“I have to be very selective with tournaments, and plan carefully my preparation times and recovery times, and do the right training,” she stressed. “It’s important not to overload, as travelling takes its toll.”
Thanks to advances in sport science, the still highly motivated record-breaker may be able to continue, perhaps with reduced commitments, for some while yet.
This week though David has a likely quarter-final with Omneya Abdel Kawy, the world number six who almost beat her 15 months ago in the World Championships in Cairo, and a possible semi-final with another Egyptian, Nour El Sherbini.
Much depends on who feels freshest at the start of the week.
“I have had to plan properly, with special preparation for major events like the British Open,” David said.
“I have to pick and choose tournaments throughout the year, so I’m not overloaded. As years go by I have to be more selective, take more rest, and do more rehab. “
David did not disagree that there may be as many as five potential winners of the British Open but, possibly unwilling to risk creating mental barriers, didn’t exactly say so.
– ‘Refining things’ –
“It’s who wants it most at the end of the day, and who performs best,” she responded. “It is more exciting, knowing you just have to be really prepared and ready to go for it.”
She had had “a few good weeks since Chicago (the Windy City Open in February), just refining things and pepping up my squash each time I get out there.”
More certain than David actually regaining the British Open title is her enduring determination to try.
Despite achieving almost everything she can, both on and off court, David feels the sport itself remains the most important thing for her.
“It gives me so much joy still to be competing and being on the glass court and putting everything together,” she said. “Nothing lives up to that moment when you are playing your heart out and giving it your all.
“When everything comes together you feel that you are in the best place you can be. I can’t imagine anything else which gives that satisfaction – a winning feeling after all the hard work. That’s my motivation.
“Also there’s still room to develop as a person and as a player, because this game is so intricate you want to keep stepping out there to see what you can do.”
If David does reach the final again she should, according to the seedings, face Laura Massaro, her conqueror in last year’s semis.
This time though Massaro may have a difficult quarter-final with Camille Serme of France, whose career-finest performances happened at the tournament last year, culminating in a stunning triumph over the English woman before her home crowd.
If they meet again, the winner could have a semi-final with Raneem El Welily, the unpredictably gifted Egyptian who was briefly world number one last year after holding four match points in the 2014 world final against David. – Agence France-Presse