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Dec 17th News Bundle

All eyes on Wee Wern to deliver

Nicol David does not expect anyone, in the immediate future, to emulate her achievements as to do so would only serve to foster unrealistic expectations.

Much has been made of the ability of Malaysia's next generation of players and the high benchmark set by Nicol can only be described as unattainable for the foreseeable future.

With talent thin on the ground, only national junior Low Wee Wern has been touted by the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia to go on one day to replace Nicol as the country's No 1.

Wee Wern was recently installed as the top seed at next month's British Junior Open girls' Under-19 category, increasing expectations she might emulate Nicol's success in winning the title in December 1999.

But while Nicol agrees that Wee Wern has the ability to become a top player, the World No 1 cautioned against placing too high expectations on the player or any of the other national juniors so soon.

"Being the top seed is one thing but she has to go in there and do her best. There is a lot expected of her but you cannot expect players to do what I did.

"I was fortunate in the sense that everything fell in place at the right time for me. She just has got to do her best in her position," said Nicol after undergoing a 'sweat test' by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Nicol believes Wee Wern, 18, has come a long way in the last 12 months and has the potential to make her own mark on the world stage.

"She has improved a lot and when she was training in Amsterdam with me (in the middle of the year), I saw her play and she has got better.

"It will be interesting to she how she does (at the British Juniors)," added Nicol, who was propelled to stardom after winning five titles in various age-groups categories at the prestigious tournament.

Wee Wern herself was cautious in predicting she would become only the fourth Malaysian after Ong Beng Hee, Nicol and Tan Yan Xin to lift a British Junior Open title.

"This will be my last British Junior tournament and I haven't won a title there. It is my last chance and I will be going there to do my best," said the World No 42.

Wee Wern must get past Canada's Laura Gemmell in the semi-finals to set up a potential date with second seed Heba El Torky of Egypt in the final.

Asked about Nicol's comments, Wee Wern said: "I've been working with her own my game, even when she's back in Penang. It's been good training with her as I've learnt a lot."

Nicol lends a hand to Wee Wern

KUALA LUMPUR: World number one Nicol David will lend a helping hand to Low Wee Wern’s bid to win the prestigious British Junior Open title.

Wee Wern, the Asian junior champion, is the top seed of the girls’ Under-19 competition of the Open, which will be held in Sheffield from Jan 2-6.

The 18-year-old has not won any of the Open’s age-group titles. Her best achievement was a runner-up finish to Camille Serme of France in the Under-19 competition last year.

In contrast, Nicol is the only Malaysian to have won five age-group titles and her last was claiming the girls’ Under-19 crown in 1999.

The 25-year-old Nicol said that expectations were high on fellow Penangite Wee Wern to win the title this time, now that she is the top seed.

“Wee Wern has improved a lot and I am sure she will challenge strongly to end her title drought in the British Junior Open. I will be more than happy to help her with practice matches in Penang to fine tune her shots and boost her confidence,’’ she said.

Meanwhile, Nicol welcomed the “Gatorade Sweat Test”, which was conducted on her at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Nicol said that she appreciated the benefits of the test and how it could help her improve on her performance.

“As a professional athlete, I always want to find the extra advantage that can help me perform better,’’ she said.

“With the experience, I believe that the sweat test will help me understand the effects of hydration on my performance. Proper intake of fluids plays a large part in maintaining optimum physical fitness.

“Reaching the world number one spot was never easy. However, maintaining that position sometimes can be a lot harder but with this new hydration plan, I believe it will give me an added edge for my competitions next year.”

Nicol is expected to play between 10 and 12 tournaments on the professional circuit next year.

Emerging Players, Veterans Pose A Threat To Nicol Staying World No. 1

Emerging players from England and Egypt and veterans like the Grinham sisters of Australia and Natalie Grainger (USA) will most likely pose the biggest threat in national squash queen Datuk Nicol David's quest to remain as the world's Number One for the third consecutive year next year.

"I'm sure the English girls and Egyptians are hungry to dislodge me from the top," she told reporters when met at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil here Wednesday.

She noted that Allison Waters, Jenny Duncalf and Laura Lenghthorn-Massaro of England and Egyptians Engy Kheirallah and Omneya Abdel Kawy were rising fast judging by their recent performances.

Engy Kheirallah, ranked 23 in the Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) rankings, helped Egypt to win the Women's World Team Championship in Cairo last November by beating Waters (ranked 5) in the last game while Omneya, just entering the age of 23 next year, will be reaching her peak very soon.

"It's never comfortable when you are on the top, but that's the challenge I have to face. So, I'm looking forward to next year and intend to do what it takes to remain on top," added the 25-year-old Nicol.