Published: Monday March 17, 2014 MYT 10:28:00 PM
Updated: Monday March 17, 2014 MYT 10:41:15 PM
By Loganath Velloo
GEORGE TOWN: Malaysian squash queen Nicol David has special memories of each of her seven world titles won in 2005-06 and 2008-12.
If she wins an eighth crown in the 29th World Women’s Squash Cham-pionship 2013, which begins today at the SPICE Arena in Penang, it will triumph all her other victories.
Nicol has made no secret of her excitement in featuring in the World Championship in front of her home fans. She had played her part in supporting the move to bring the championship to the island state after Hong Kong and Egypt declined to become hosts.
Playing at the SPICE Arena, formerly known as PISA, is not new to the world No. 1. She had captured her second world junior title there in 2001 and is now looking forward to extend her unbeaten streak at the venue.
“To play in a World Championship in my hometown, I cannot ask for more than this,” said Nicol.
“The World Championship is unlike any other competitions on the Tour. This is what professional squash is all about and the players have a special feeling about the tournament.”
Nicol opens her campaign against the 2013 Penang Open champion Emma Beddoes of England. The match has been scheduled to start at 9pm on Tuesday, and will be preceded by an opening ceremony comprising a cycling and torch run, live band performance, 3D projection show and a fireworks display.
But it is the fireworks on the court that will be of more interest to the 5,000 supporters who are expected on the opening day.
Much has been said and written about the amount of pressure on Nicol’s shoulders to live up to expectations on home soil.
But Nicol herself has brushed off the concern, and said that she is experienced enough not to allow the pressure to affect her performance.
If all goes well, the top seed from Malaysia is expected to cruise into the quarter-finals, where she will likely play eighth seed Camille Serme of France or former arch-rival Rachael Grinham of Australia. Fourth seed Alison Waters of England is likely to be waiting in the semi-final.
In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Laura Massaro of England and third seed Raneem El Weleily are the favourites to set up a repeat of their 2012 World Open semi-final clash, which the former won.
El Weleily does not expect this year’s competition to follow the script, and feels that several upsets are possible.
“It is not so clear cut for the seeded players because everybody here is a top level competitor and has an equal chance of winning. I think it will be an interesting competition and we can expect several surprises,” said El Weleily.
Among the players capable of playing the spoiler’s role in the bottom half of the draw are England’s Jenny Duncalf, Ireland’s Madeline Perry and Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern.
After two successive quarter-final appearances, Wee Wern is seeking a maiden appearance in the last four. The sixth seed, however, will have her work cut out as she is in the same quarter as Massaro.
Wee Wern’s opening match on Wednesday is against Australian Donna Urquhart.
Eighteen-year-old Vanessa Raj, the third Malaysian in the fray, is not expected to get past her opening match against Massaro.
The Star is the official media for the championship.