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Squash legend David in quest for 7th world title

by AFP

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands (AFP) –

Squash world No. 1, Nicol David, pictured during the Australian Open in Canberra, on August 10, 2011

Nicol David of Malaysia plays a volley against England’s Emily Whitlock at the Australian Open squash in Canberra, on August 10, 2011. David has discovered that greater self-knowledge is helping her deal with the pressures as she currently is trying to extend her all-time record of world titles to seven.

Nicol David has discovered that greater self-knowledge is helping her deal with the pressures as she tries to extend her all-time record of world titles to seven.

The already legendary Malaysian has made a flying start to her campaign here, but has had to take profound and very personal measures to help endure the stresses which only increase with time.

David carries the relentlessly heavy burden of flag-bearer for an emerging nation, is subjected to constant media demands and appearance requests, and now, in her 30th year, finds herself expected to fend off a growing bevy of younger rivals.

Hence the role of Frank Cabooter, a sports psychologist who works at the University of Amsterdam, specialising in burn-out and depression, has increased in importance for David.

“In the last two to three years he has given me a lot of insight into who I am and how I can look at understanding myself better – not just on a squash basis, but on a personal note,” she confides.

“It means you have to admit to things you may not have seen or known. But at the same time if you can improve yourself if you can adjust. It’s so fascinating (learning about) our mind and how it works.

Nicol David, pictured with the winner's trophy at the Australian Open squash tournament in Canberra, on August 19, 2012

Nicol David of Malaysia holds up the winner’s trophy following her victory over Laura Massaro of England in the women’s final at the Australian Open squash tournament in Canberra, on August 19, 2012. David carries heavy burden of flag-bearer for an emerging nation, is subjected to constant media demands and now, in her 30th year, finds herself expected to fend off a growing bevy of younger rivals.

“We go into what works for me, what goes through my mind, and how I manage it,” adds David, who here has been feeding off the vibes of the music, the warm climate, and the friendly seaside atmosphere.

So far she has dealt impressively with Omneya Abdel Kawy, the 2010 World Open finalist from Egypt, and Annie Au, the world number nine from Hong Kong, both in straight games and in about half an hour each.

But after more than six years unbroken as world number one, David knows her strengths and weaknesses are evolving. “As time goes on we all change, as we get older,” she says.

“I’m trying to use that to my advantage. There are a lot of things to learn from. And a lot of things to understand about myself as a squash player and my own growth.

“All this changed me and kept me in tune (with my feelings).”

David has occasionally revealed signs of human frailty, but when it has happened she has tried to learn why it emerged, and worked to develop her capacity to deal with it.

A notable example was when she lost her British Open title three years ago with a hesitant quarter-final defeat to Ireland’s Madeline Perry.

That is why another quarter-final match with Perry here Wednesday may offer an insight into the champion’s mental growth and personal development.

David had a rest day Tuesday in which to prepare. But her focus is unlikely to be on the quality of her opponent’s skills, but the entwining of her own tactical concerns with her state of mind.

“It’s always a good match with Madeline, but I know how important it is to focus more on my game and what I have to do,” the record-breaking champion said. “I have to bring my game up – and make sure I bring it with me to the court.”

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