World ranking number one Malaysian squash superstar Datuk Nicol Ann David equalled the record of five World Open titles held by Australia’s Sarah Fitz-Gerald when she completed one of the most devastating spells of her career by beating Egypt’s Omneya Abdel Kawy in Wednesday’s final in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
David crushed home hopes with an 11-5 11-8 11-6 victory over Egyptian fourth seed Omneya Abdel Kawy in Wednesday’s final.
David continued the form she has shown throughout the tournament, looking supremely calm and confident, stroking the ball to all four corners and accelerating when necessary.
Abdel Kawy, the first Egyptian ever to reach the world final, was unable to get a foothold in the match until the second game, which she led 3-0 and 6-3. It took only just over half an hour for David to win 11-5, 11-8 11-6 against the Egyptian, and there was only one brief phase in the middle of the match when the outcome seemed in doubt.
That was when Kawy’s great racket skills helped her carve out a 7-4 second game lead, but David was unruffled, and stepped up the pace to take the game.
She did that by combining patient and high-paced rallying with well-chosen moments to make attacking ploys, most often with an accurate or clinging drop shot followed by a testing drive to the back.
The home crowd tried to lift Kawy as they returned for the third game, but the match had already taken its decisive twist.
David was soon 3-1 up and then 7-2 with Kawy enduring the added frustration of a bad bounce near the backhand back corner, causing her to bang the ball into the court in annoyance.
This was though a good-tempered match, and a revealing one: David, who looked as though she had a couple of challengers breathing down her neck a year ago, now looks far ahead of the field.
“My focus was strong throughout the tournament,” said David after the successful defence of the title in which she did not drop a single game.
“I really wanted this. I didn’t want to let it slip.
“It’s amazing that I can do something that Sarah has done, because she’s such a great player,” David said of the champion, who is now an important sparring partner.
“She’s helped me so much and – with my coach Liz (Irving) she’s been instrumental in what I have done.
Earlier this month, Nicol David entered her 50th successive month atop the world rankings. She won the British Open title in 2005, 2006 and 2008, as well as the World Open title in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Nicol is the first squash player to have won the World Junior title twice; in 1999 and 2001 under the tutelage of Richard Glanfield. She remained the only female squash player to have achieved this, until Raneem El Weleily emulated Nicol’s feat by winning her second World Junior Championship in 2007.
Nicol joined Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) and turned professional in 2000 when she won her first WISPA title, after only a month in the tour. The victory came in February, when she defeated Salma Shabana in the final of the Savcor Finnish Open.
On June 7, 2008, Nicol David was honoured with the Order of Merit (Darjah Bakti) or D.B. in conjunction with the birthday of the His Majesty Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. She was the first recipient of the award which was established on June 26, 1975. The award is limited to 10 recipients who have made significant contributions in the arts, sciences and the humanities.
Nicol was also invited to carry the Olympic torch for Malaysia during the build up to the Athens Olympics in 2004 and was appointed UNDP National Goodwill Ambassador for Malaysia.
Nicol David’s other notable achievements include the Asian Squash Championship, which she won with a record of seven times (in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010). She also held a 13-month, 51-match winning streak, from March 2006 until April 2007, when she finally lost to Natalie Grinham in the final of the 2007 Seoul Open. Nicol has also obtained the WISPA Player of the Year on five consecutive occasions, from 2005 until 2009.
On July 12, 2008, Nicol was among 497 people honoured in conjunction with the 70th birthday of the Penang State Governor Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas. Nicol was also one of the 28 people who received the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri award (DSPN), which carries the title Datuk, making her the youngest person ever to be conferred Datukship in Penang.
Nicol is the daughter of Ann Marie David, a retired Malaysian Chinese school teacher, and Desmond David, a Malaysian Indian engineer, who is also a former state athlete and footballer. She has two sisters, Lianne and Cheryl, both of whom are accomplished squash players at the national level. As a youngster, mathematics was Nicol’s best subject at school; she dreamed of one day becoming an engineer. Nicol scored seven A’s for her Penilaian Menengah Rendah and obtained seven A’s in her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (the equivalent to GCSE), which she studied at Convent Green Lane Secondary School in Green Lane, Penang.
David, now the winner of 48 WISPA World Tour titles from 63 finals, will now fly to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games as overwhelming favourite to capture the only significant title missing from her collection.
Malaysia salutes you, Datuk Nicol. Thank you for being such an inspiration and the embodiment of the Malaysia Boleh concept. Congratulations, Datuk!