NICOLDAVID Apparently Nicol David had a 2009 which was “poor by her high standards.” Well, according to the Malaysian national news agency Bernama she did. We all know David’s toughest opponent. It is the ever-tightening pressure of expectations.
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Pressure keeps mounting whether you like it or not, for me, positive thinking is the best way to avoid pressure, but I know pretty well that avoiding pressure is not easy
It is worth reminding them all that all this relentless hassle is one of the reasons for David's decision to base herself five thousand miles away. There’s nothing new in this, except that there are no signs of it easing. Instead the pressure continues to mount. If David were to break down one day – as may well have briefly happened at the British, and may have only narrowly been avoided at the World Open, no-one should be surprised. We‘re all familiar with those who fantasise about being friends of the famous, or even about influencing them in some way. There is one guy, the National Sports Council (NSC) DirectorGeneral Datuk Zolkples Embong no less, who seemed to imagine he was with Nicol David when she went on court. This amazing verdict was imposed upon David in a year in which she extended her hold on the World No.1 ranking to a 41st consecutive month, who captured her fourth consecutive World Open title and who became Women’s World Player of the Year for a fourth time. That same censorious tract also described David's loss to Madeline Perry in the British Open as “shocking”. One hopes it only used this harshly pejorative adjective through ignorance of how differently it resonates to describe the result as a shock. Even Jenny Duncalf, who has every reason to want to extract maximum value from her two successive wins over David at the end of the season, volunteered that the pressure upon the Malaysian “from the national government and the press is ridiculous”. David is also getting more pressure from opponents who have improved while trying to close the gap on her. Perry is possibly one and Natalie Grinham was certainly another, while Natalie Grainger still is, and two English players Duncalf and Alison Waters may be in the process of doing the same. But most of the pressure comes from off court, by people who use David in a variety of ways for their own ends. There are writers wanting a story, of course: in this case a mere four defeats throughout an entire year was apparently enough to make one. There are also hangers-on basking in the glow of petty contact with celebrity, politicians linking themselves with the headline-maker to enhance their profiles, and patriots and ideologues making her a vehicle for their triumphalist vision of nation building. 12 | March 2010 INTERNATIONALSQUASHMAGAZINE www.isportgroup.com/InternationalSquashMagazine
“We have so many people behind us, waiting for an opportunity to beat us,” Embong said whilst explaining to the press how David could have ended the year with two losses to Duncalf. Even if we speculate that this was only some kind of royal plural, or a figurative use of the word “us”, it still made a bizarre impression which emphasised the scale of David's mental task each time she prepares for must-win matches. The psychological stakes were cranked up even higher in October when the Malaysian National Squash Centre, with its spectacularly flexible ten singles/eight doubles courts and its huge alpha-numeric scoreboard which, located amidst the aromatica trees of Bukit Jalal, had been one of the high spots of the 1998 Commonwealth Games, was suddenly renamed the Arena Nicol David. “I was shocked because I had never dreamed of such a possibility, but the announcement by the government was both meaningful and significant to me,” David said, her eyes full of tears. One wondered what conflicting emotions those tears expressed. Celebrity happened so quickly after her first World Open title in 2005; she soon rose to superstar status, before being elevated to such a model of perfection in the minds of many that for a naturally modest person it may well be painful to live up to. David became the first recipient of the Order of Merit, an award established as far back as 1975 and limited to only ten recipients who make significant contributions in arts, science and humanities. Shortly afterwards she was awarded a Datukship, roughly the equivalent of a Dame in the United Kingdom, at the age of just twenty-four, making her the youngest ever to have such an august title.
NICOL DAVID PRINCE 03 SPEEDPORT BLACK
And now the renamed Arena Nicol David was re-opened by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery after the cabinet had approved the ministry's idea to use this sporting venue to immortalise her. “Pressure keeps mounting whether you like it or not,” David said, as though she might be trying discreetly to warn about the consequences. “For me, positive thinking is the best way to avoid pressure, but I know pretty well that avoiding pressure is not easy,” she said. But not many people notice. The abiding images of 2009 were just how far down she got in the World Open final against Natalie Grinham, a game and a few points, before two or three matchchanging errors from the Australian let David in, and then her nearby parents watching anxiously as she was interviewed immediately after winning, and how her tongue tied up as she spoke. The depth of the ordeal was suddenly apparent. As the heroine of all Asia sat down and began to unravel her thoughts, her sentences collapsed and her words deteriorated into random syllables, causing her to hang out her tongue in a gesture of defeat. “Ugh, I don’t know what I'm saying,” she said. Minutes later, as she publicly thanked her parents, her lips trembled, tears welled up, and the voice quavered, before she recovered – rather as she had after that worrying opening fifteen minutes of what was eventually to be an excellent final. Along with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Korea, Malaysia regards itself as one of the world’s countries which will profoundly influence the future of the planet, and it sees David not only as its highest profile athlete but as a propaganda tool in its destiny. But it needs to heed these signs of stress in its heroine who is an exceptional person, but who has maybe not yet, in quite a moderate era still awaiting a World No.1 of the standard of Sarah Fitz-Gerald, become a truly great squash player. David has beautiful, fluent and exhilarating movement, still-developing skills, an admirable sense of duty, and great spiritual strength. But even someone as strong as her has a breaking point.
O3SPEEDPORT BLACK Nicol David recently completed her fourth unbroken year as World No.1 using the O3 Speedport Black, the ‘flagship’ and most popular model of the Prince racket range and the ultimate in World Tour inspired construction. The O3 Speedport Black provides players with increased power and control through an extremely aerodynamic 135g lightweight frame, allowing them to execute precise shots from all areas of the court. Speed: Wind tunnel testing proves Prince O3 Speedport frames move through the air up to 24% faster than traditional rackets, allowing players to hit their best shots more often, even faster. Sweet Spot: Laboratory testing proves that the patented O3 Speedport design strengthens and stabilises the frame for up to a 59% bigger sweet spot, creating a sweetzone. Greater Stability: O3 engineered rackets are created through a one step fusion process that utilises the strongest structure known to man, the Arch, creating the frame’s O-Ports. These O-Ports stabilise the racket to provide more control on off-centre shots. Prince O3 Speedport rackets provide the largest sweet spot for perfect control, ultimate speed, more power and unmatched stability for pinpoint accuracy.
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