Majestic Malaysian aims for historic triumph in Philadelphia
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Malaysian Nicol David is seeded to become the first player in the 60-year history of the US Open Squash Championships – man or woman – to win three titles in a row when the 2014 event reaches its climax next week in Philadelphia.
The Delaware Investments US Open, a World Series Platinum event on the Women’s Squash Association World Tour, gets under way tomorrow (Saturday) at Drexel University, leading to the final on Saturday 18 October. Whilst the Women’s Championship made its debut in 1993, it was back in 1954 that the inaugural Men’s event took place.
David, who 10 days ago celebrated her 99th successive month at the top of the WSA World Rankings, makes her return to the WSA World Tour this week after winning a remarkable fourth individual gold medal in the quadrennial Asian Games, before leading Malaysia to gold in the women’s team event.
“It feels great to know that and I didn’t realise it,” said the 31-year-old from Penang when hearing of her latest potential three-successive-title record. “My main aim is to start strong here in the first round and to bring in my top performance on the day.
“I’ve just arrived in Philadelphia and the buzz is kicking in the moment I got here having to play this US Open again. This tournament brings out a vital importance of the women’s squash game having equal prize money with the men for the second year running and makes us women squash players kick into another gear to present a top showcase this week.
“The US Open has the same level of prestige like a Grand Slam in tennis being among the four major titles in the squash tour that every player would like to get their name on the challenge trophy,” added the event favourite. “I always enjoy coming back competing in this tournament and US Squash with supportive sponsors continue to step it up every year for us to compete in an extraordinary atmosphere each time.
“My goals for the rest of the year are really on each tournament basis. I’ll be concentrating on the US Open now then straight after is the Macau Open, in December the World Teams and World Championships to finish off the year. Exciting tournaments still to come that keeps the excitement for me to work harder and stay on track with everything.”
David will meet a qualifier in the opening round and is expected to line up against her Malaysian team-mate Low Wee Wern, the sixth seed now ranked a best-ever five in the world, in the quarter-finals.
Egypt’s third seed Raneem El Welily, to whom she lost in the Malaysian Open semi-finals in August, is David’s predicted semi-final opponent – whilst the event is due to climax in a repeat of the 2013 final between the Malaysian and England’s Laura Massaro.
Second seed Massaro is the reigning world champion, ranked two in the world, who will also begin her 2014 US Open campaign against a qualifier.
Hopes of a first ever home winner of the women’s title were dealt a blow today when US number one Amanda Sobhy – a semi-finalist in the two previous WSA World Series events – was forced to withdraw as the result of an injury. Guyana’s Nicolette Fernandes moves into Sobhy’s seeded position in the draw, while England’s 20-year-old former European junior champion Emily Whitlock is elevated from the qualifiers into the main draw.
Davenport US Open, Drexel University, Philadelphia:
1st round draw:
 Nicol David (MAS) v Qualifier
 Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Qualifier
 Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) v Qualifier
 Low Wee Wern (MAS) v Joey Chan (HKG)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Qualifier
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v Emily Whitlock (ENG)
 Madeline Perry (IRL) v Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v Qualifier
 Annie Au (HKG) v Qualifier
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Qualifier
 Kasey Brown (AUS) v Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v [WC] Sabrina Sobhy (USA)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Emma Beddoes (ENG)
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v Heba El Torky (EGY)
 Sarah Kippax (ENG) v Line Hansen (DEN)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v Qualifier
Qualifying finals draw:
Habiba Mohamed Ahmed (EGY) v Olivia Blatchford (USA)
Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) v Milou van der Heijden (NED)
Latasha Khan (USA) v Samantha Teran (MEX)
Victoria Lust (ENG) v Georgina Stoker (ENG)
Siyoli Waters (RSA) v Sarah Cardwell (AUS)
Aisling Blake (IRL) v Cecelia Cortes (USA)
Yathreb Adel (EGY) v Maria Elena Ubina (USA)
Samantha Cornett (CAN) v Deon Saffery (WAL)
For all the latest WSA Tour news: wsaworldtour.com
Picture by Steve Cubbins (US Open Squash)