Nicol David, the highest profile woman squash player of all time, finally nailed elusive Commonwealth Games squash singles gold medal when she defeated Jenny Duncalf 11-3, 11-5, 11-7 in the final at the Siri Fort Sports Complex yesterday.
With a very vocal crowd cheering her on, the Malaysian added the only major title missing from her kitty in her fourth Commonwealth attempt. She was only 15 when she competed in squash’s maiden appearance in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. She competed in all three previous squash competitions at the Commonwealth Games, but her best finish before Friday’s gold was a fourth-place effort at Melbourne in 2006.
Yesterday though, there was no stopping the Malaysian icon as she romped home to the gold medal in 35 minutes.
Second-seeded Duncalf simply had no answer to the world No. 1’s power play. Even when she did put Nicol under pressure, the world champion just rode it out and cruised to an easy win – just as she has done all week.
Nicol, who was relieved to finally get her hands on the elusive gold medal, said it was one of her most cherished moments.
“It was not easy as Jenny pushed hard. But I was focused and I have been playing well the whole week,” she said.
“This is one tournament that I realy wanted to win. When I had the final ball in my hand, the only thought was to keep the rally going to get the winning point.
World number one David’s feat was all the more significant as she triumphed without dropping a game, just as she did in last month’s World Open in Egypt.
“I’m so excited right now – it’s just so wonderful. Jenny didn’t play her best today – but I had to take my opportunities. A Commonwealth Games gold medal is one of my highest achievements so far. The fact that it’s in a multi-sport event, which means so much for Malaysia, makes it even more important for me,” said the 27-year-old from Penang.
David had won a record-equalling fifth world title only two weeks ago and recently celebrated her 54th month as world number one.
There was rarely much doubt that she would beat the world number two from England, who beat David twice late last year but has been unable to repeat the feat in 2010.
The favourite was off to a great start, striking the ball accurately and consistently, gradually developed her capacity to score in the front court with drops and volley drops, and was only challenged in the third game when Duncalf hung in as hard as she could.
But David remained calm as her moment approached, finishing it with a penalty point after pressuring her opponent into hitting the ball back too close to her own body.
As soon as that happened she expressed her feelings by picking up the ball again and ramming it as hard as she could against the front wall.
“It’s a great relief,” admitted the five-time World Open champion.
“I have learnt so much since last time, and here I was able to put some of it to use. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
She celebrated by putting the racket to her forehead, embracing the Malaysian team and then mopping her brow as she sat down. She arose again to encircle the court draped in the Malaysian flag.
The relief was all the greater given that her 2006 setback had brought criticism which contributed to her exile at the squash-boom city of Amsterdam where Liz Irving, the Australian coach is based.
The decision has been followed by unprecedented success, and now by winning the Commonwealth title without dropping a game.
Well done, Nicol! You are truly Malaysia’s pride and the country’s most outstanding sportswoman ever!