Channel NewsAsia

Squash: Nicol David back on track to regain world title

Nicol David's recapture of the British Open has raised hopes that she could become the first player ever to lose and win the world title in the same year.

KINGSTON UPON HULL, United Kingdom: Nicol David's recapture of the British Open has raised hopes that she could become the first player ever to lose and win the world title in the same year.

The Malaysian's performance in an 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 win against Laura Massaro in an outstanding final in Hull, on England's northeast coast, on Sunday was her best for many months, underlining that she is still the world's best player and may yet remain so for a while.

The world number one needed to be in top form against an excellent challenge from the still-improving Englishwoman, who unexpectedly succeeded David as world champion in Penang last month.

As that tournament was a delayed version of the 2013 World Championship, and because a 2014 World Championship likely to be arranged for November, David may have a chance of atoning quite quickly for her upsetting home town loss.

"This British Open was something I particularly wanted to go for. And finding my form and bringing it back to where it should be was great," said David, who has now won the title five times.

She might have added that it is also crucially important for her morale, and for her belief, at the age of 30, that she may still be able to dominate the WSA Tour.

"I am really pleased to beat Laura," David said. "She played great squash, and didn't let up at any point. I had to fight my way at every point."

Then she added the remark which hinted at why the British Open, for all its status, history, and importance, could actually be a stepping stone to something greater. "It means the world to me," she said.

Though the meaning was perhaps unconscious, the words hinted that the famous 92-year-old event has offered David the momentum to rehabilitate herself as world champion again.

To do that though she will have to deal with a Massaro whose approach is dangerously thoughtful.

"I was aware that Nicol hadn't been at her best once or twice recently. I wanted to play at the top of my form, against her at the top of her form, and to measure where I am," she said.

"I think that's what happened. I think Nicol brought her best level. I don't think I could have done an awful lot more. I don't think she could have done an awful lot more either. She deserves to be number one, but I deserve to be near her in the rankings."

Part of David's better performance at this event was that she was far freer of the pressure of expectations, and was able to adopt a professionally blinkered mindset.

"I put my head down and stuck to what I was doing," she said. "That was why I was able to put the pressure on her as much as I could."

David now has a chance to galvanise herself. There is a break in the tour calendar, which will be followed by other significant stepping stones, such as the Hong Kong Open in August and the US Open in October. She also has a philosophy which may help her transcend the pressure when it increases again.

"My ambition is not to win as many titles as I can," seven-times world champion David said.

"This is a sport which has so much to it that every time I go on court I can learn something. So my main aim is more about understanding myself through squash."

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna