The legendary Nicol David will make her final appearance at the sport’s biggest tournament – the PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family – this week after Monday’s announcement that she will call time on her record-breaking career at the end of the season.
The Penangite will go down in history as one of the greatest players ever to pick up a squash racket and lifted a record eight World Championship titles.
Ahead of her final World Championships bow in Chicago, we got the former World No.1’s thoughts on the most prestigious tournament in squash.
This will be Nicol David's 17th, and last, World Championship run
Her first World Championship crown came back 2005, after she defeated Australia’s Rachael Grinham in the final.
The Malaysian went into the tournament with a positive mindset, and when it happened, the dream became reality. She also became World No.1 for the first month of what would be a record run.
“That moment when you actually win that first World title, it is like a dream come true. The first one that I won back in 2005 in Hong Kong was pretty special,” David said.
“I never expected to actually win a world title, I just came off a tournament loss in Qatar, just before that World Championships and I was pretty disappointed with my performance.
She won her first World Championship title back in 2005
“Coming into Hong Kong, I went to Malaysia and I was telling my friends how this is going to be a great tournament, but I wanted to just go into it really positively and just enjoy every moment of it and my dreams came true and it really happened right at that very moment.
“That also signified that I was World No.1 the next month, so it was everything happening at one go which was very special for me. I think it took me the whole year, 2006, to fully grasp what was happening.”
David went on to stay atop the world rankings for nine years, winning six more World Championships before the 2014 tournament came around.
Two World Championships were held in 2014. The 2013 version was postponed until April 2014, and was held in David’s home town of Penang.
In front of her home crowd, she was not able to win a sixth consecutive title after falling to a shock semi-final defeat to rising Egyptian talent Nour El Sherbini. She bounced back though to start at both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and travelled to Cairo in December 2014, hunting for that eighth World Championship crown.
Nicol David and Nour el Sherbini met in the semi finals of the 2013 World Championship (pictured here at the 2017 Windy City Open)
“I think from that loss, the rest of the year really set me up to really understand what I was here to do for this year. I had a really good year, with the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games happening, so a lot of tournaments that really set me up for what was coming at the end of the year,” she explained.
“I gave it one last push in that World Championships in Cairo. Playing in Wadi Degla, the home of Raneem El Welily, but before that, I had to fight through a semi final match with Omneya Abdel Kawy.”
The win over one Egyptian helped give David a boost for the final in Cairo, which would come against another home favourite, in Raneem El Welily, who went 2-1 up in the final, but then something rather peculiar happened.
“When I was 2-1 down, the funniest thing happened, I came off court and people were starting to put the trophy tables on the court and then me and Liz [Irving, David’s coach] were looking at them like, ‘It’s not over, there is still another game to go and the match isn’t over’,” the Malaysian explained.
“We were wondering what was happening but then she [Irving] was telling me to focus on what I had to do and then they had to bring the tables off so we could start the fourth game.
David had to beat Raneem El Welily in the final to win the 2014 crown
“That fourth game, I really was just going in there to play, but Raneem was fighting and finding her groove in the middle of the game, and when she was up match ball, my mind just went blank and I actually can’t remember much from that moment on.
“I can’t even remember. I actually have to re-watch that match again to relive that moment.”
She battled back from 10-6 down in the fourth, saving four Championship balls, before claiming victory in the fifth top secure her eighth World title in emotional scenes.
“I wanted it so badly, and by the final point, when I won it and I won the Worlds title for the 8th time, that was truly the most emotional win of my career. I haven’t felt that emotional before in my life,” she said.
Nicol David won the last of her eight World Championship titles in 2014
“Even after that win and after that year, it has taken some time to really get over it. Being down and coming through, and to beat someone as talented as Raneem, It is everything, I can’t even explain it. It is just a very proud moment for me and a special one.”
The PSA World Championships take place between February 23 – March 2 at Chicago’s Union Station. David begins her tournament against Egypt’s Menna Nasser in round one.