Saturday, 14 September 2013
Nicol's attacking game takes her to the finals
(Saturday, September 14th, Kuala Lumpur)
This afternoon Nicol David played her semifinal of the Malaysian Open Squash Championships against the French #1, and current World #12 Camille Serme. Actually, these two ladies very recently played in the finals of the World Games, this summer. So both come in to this tournament quite fresh and ready for competitive matches.
The first game was tight, and closely fought, and end up going Nicol's way in extra points. Both players were aggressive throughout the first game, and this kept the rallies fast and strenuous. Actually the first game could have gone either way, but Camille made a couple of mistakes at the end, maybe even early signs of fatigue.
As it was, at about 4-2 down in the second game, it became obvious that Camille was slowing down. In the fast rallies she was clearly a step behind. The first game, with its all out fast attacking pace, had taken its toll on Miss Serme. From 4-2 down, she was a spent force. She did smartly adjust her game going for a more comfortable slow and high strategy. Doing this only prolonged the inevitable, as Nicol simply kept running with her own attacking tactics, and the end quickly became a foregone conclusion.
As discussed previously Nicol's evolving attack still has its rough edges. In particular she's still developing an awareness of how her attack is affecting her opponents and where she needs to position to follow up and either maintain pressure or go for the kill. What's great to see, is that Nicol is now exhibiting an approach of positive pressure (meaning that she's hitting shots that intentionally pressure the opponents).
In the past Nicol was content to rally and let her opponents either wilt under the accumulated physical demands, or self-implode as they tried to consistently breakthrough Nicol's defense. Now, Miss David is a different player on the court, she's 'taking the game' right to her opponents. She's dictating the speed and direction of the rallies, games, and thus the matches. Two days in a row now, her new tactical prowess has steam-rolled two world class opponents.
What's really important for Nicol, is that even when she was making errors, she stuck with her new game. She's willing to lose a few rallies to errors, because the overall benefits are far greater. She's dominating rallies, she's forcing the opponent in to errors, and probably the most important factor, she's discovered that attacking her opponents is draining their energy reserves faster than ever before.
For eight plus years, Nicol's opponents have had to stuggle with her fitness, her tenacious error-free defense, her rock solid mental strength. In the past year and a half a couple of women have risen to that challenge, both Laura Massaro, and Raneem El Weleily having taken multiple matches and tournament titles away from Nicol. But now, it truly looks like Dato' Nicol David is "raising the bar" once again.
With this positive, aggressive attack now on display, opponents are going to be under heavy pressure, and Nicol David's fitness will again come to fore, as very few women will be able to keep up both the attack, counter-attack, and defend, at full speed for three games, much less a full length 5 game match. The future foreshadowing these past two days, is that all those who wish to challenge for the mantle of the 7 time World Champion, are going to find that attacking is not enough, even higher levels of fitness are now required. Fitness not just to attack, but to defend the attack as well.