By ALAN THATCHER
You have to feel sorry for Nicol David. She loses a squash match and the Malaysian government think it’s their job to start interfering.
Following David’s loss to Laura Massaro in the semi-final of the KL Open, the National Sports Council director general decided to poke his nose in.
Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong felt it was his duty to tell the seven-time world champion’s coach, Liz Irving, to change the player’s training programme and persuade her to enter fewer tournaments as she nears 30.
He told the New Straits Times: “I am not worried by her loss as it is quite usual for even the biggest stars to lose now and then. It even happens to stars like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.
“Of course age is also a factor especially when you play so many tournaments. A younger player can better handle back-to-back events but it is different later in their careers.
“I hope Liz Irving will re-evaluate Nicol’s performances of late and her training programme so she can continue to perform at a high level.”
He also felt qualified to question David’s support of squash’s Olympic bid, adding: “Her part in the campaign may have disrupted her preparations.”
Nicol David is one of the greatest athletes squash has ever seen. She and Liz Irving will discuss every performance, not just the occasional rare defeat, and plan strategies accordingly.
Perhaps the pressure of playing in her home country, with added stress from people like the director general, may have had something to do with the result.
That overly-patriotic tunnel vision is disrespectful to a hugely talented opponent in Laura Massaro, whose victory over England team-mate Alison Waters in the KL final propelled her back up to number two in the WSA rankings.
It also obscures other factors, including the obvious one that winning every match every time you go on court is impossible.
When two players enter the court and shut the door, only one is going to emerge triumphant.
Our friend the DG would do well to remember that.