Squash: David will not stop at World Open record

ROTTERDAM - Nicol David will attempt a record sixth title at the World Open next week, but may only be halfway through an already extraordinary list of achievements.

Although the 28-year-old Malaysian is favourite to surpass the five world titles achieved by Sarah Fitz-Gerald of Australia, she clearly does not see this as the pinnacle of her career.

Instead, if David has her way it will be a stepping stone to many more - amazingly perhaps as many as double this number of World Open titles.

"I want stay away from injury and to play for (another) five to seven years," she said. "I think I have a lot to learn."

Her light frame, superb movement, and increasing awareness of when to take breaks from competition, suggest she has the physical and motivational ability needed for the challenge.

What she will not do is think about the title record when she begins her campaign against Delia Arnold, her Malaysian compatriot, on Tuesday.

"Once I start thinking of titles it doesn't become my focus," she says.

Since her record-equalling fifth World Open last year at Sharm El Sheikh, David has faced three defeats - two to Laura Massaro, the British national champion, and one to Kasey Brown, the Commonwealth bronze medallist from Australia.

These setbacks may provide similar incentives to the two losses David suffered against Jenny Duncalf, the world number two from England, which preceded her immaculate performances in Sharm.

"Previous losses play a part in assessing how I move forward with my tournaments ahead," David said.

"I have to always stay consistent or be at my best with anyone, because they'll bring their best out whenever they play me. "That's the challenge that keeps me going and wanting more."

David hates to lose, a fact which sustains her more than the pleasure of winning, according to her coach Liz Irving, an Australian who is also based in Amsterdam.

"She takes it hard when she loses, and that drives her again," Irving said.

"I can't imagine doing what she has done and staying as motivated."

The draw here offers a likely quarter-final re-match with Brown, and a possible semi-final with Madeline Perry, the Irish player who beat her at the 2009 British Open.

Duncalf and Rachael Grinham, the former World Open champion from Australia, are seeded to contest the other semi.

David may also be alert to the progress of three young Egyptians, Raneem El Weleilly, 21, Nour El Tayeb,18, and, if she qualifies, Nour El Sherbini, 16, to monitor whether there are potential new challenges to her six-year dominance.

"Nicol's physical shape is great," Irving claims.

"It's never an issue. It's more the mental side - keeping herself prepared and motivated, dealing with the pressure."

"Sometimes you are human. You don't know where all the pressure comes from. I am sure a lot that I don't see comes from Malaysia - from sponsors, media, and other things. I am sure it gets to her. But she normally handles it so well."

In the Netherlands, where David has just bought an apartment, she should enjoy decent support with less pressure - though a majority may well be cheering for Natalie Grinham, the adopted Dutch player from Australia, younger sister of Rachael, and wife of tournament organiser Tommy Berden.

Two years ago at the World Open in Amsterdam, David came from behind to beat Grinham in a fine four-game final, though Grinham has since had a child and relies more on racket skills than maintaining high-speed rallies.

"The feeling of playing in Amsterdam two years ago was great, with my parents coming over to my home base to support me, my friends and squash group cheering me on," said David.

"It almost felt like I was in Malaysia playing in front of a home crowd."