Reinvented Nicol David good for more years yet

Richard Eaton
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"I still love the game passionately and deeply and I will play as long as I can," said squash legend Nicol David of Malaysia

Squash legend Nicol David reached the quarter-finals of the British Open on Thursday and then rubbished suggestions that she might retire any time soon.

The 33-year-old former world number one from Malaysia beat Joey Chan, the world number 17 from Hong Kong, 11-4, 14-12, 9-11, 11-2 and made it clear afterwards that her motivation was as great as ever.

"I still love the game passionately and deeply and I will play as long as I can," she said emphatically, when the master of ceremonies asked how long she could keep going.

"If I wake up and still feel like doing it, I will do it," said David, who went more than a year without a title until she triumphed in Colombia a fortnight ago.

The five-time former British Open champion may still be capable of making a challenge for a sixth on the evidence of her intriguingly inventive performance against Chan.

It made David almost unrecognisable from the player of three years ago. Her drops, boasts and crosscourt kills, which have gradually been built into a wider tactical range since the lower tin was introduced two and a half years ago, were encouragingly effective in the first and fourth games.

In between Chan played forcefully enough to cause trouble, lengthening and varying the rallies. Had she converted her game point at 11-10 in the second game the match might have taken a different course.

"I am still getting used to it," David said of her new, more creative style. "It’s getting more comfortable each time I play."

To grab a semi-final place she will have to beat Camille Serme, the former British Open champion from France.

The second seed beat Nour El Tayeb, the 11th seeded Egyptian, 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9 after a contentious finish.

Serme was awarded a conduct stroke to reach 10-8 in the fourth game after Tayeb accidentally hit her with the ball, and two rallies later she completed the win with a penalty point when Tayeb hindered her swing.

Although David is seeded four places below Serme, she has never lost to her.

- 'Sometimes it clicks'-

In the men's Ramy Ashour, the charismatic but injury-prone former champion, looked fitter than he has for a while during a 11-9, 11-6, 12-10 win over Diego Elias, the former world junior champion from Peru.

His progress came in the same half as that in which Gregory Gaultier, the only Frenchman to have won the British Open, signalled an impressively enduring capacity to win it for a third time.

The 34-year-old has rarely played a better half hour of squash in outplaying Cameron Pilley, the World Series finals runner-up, 11-1, 11-3, 11-2, confirming himself as the most in-form of all the leading players.

Gaultier’s movement was as good as ever, but it was aided greatly by an ability to camp in the centre of the court for such long periods of time that Pilley found it increasingly hard to get the ball past him, let alone make him move big distances.

“You work so hard every day on so many things and sometimes it just clicks,” said Gaultier, who won the Swedish Open and the Windy City Open in Chicago in February, overcoming world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy and world champion Karim Gawad in the process.

It helped ensure there will be a Frenchman in the semi-finals because Gaultier next plays compatriot Mathieu Castagnet, whose beat Max Lee from Hong Kong in straight games.