THE YOUNG LADY BECOMES A SAGE

She also extended her unbeaten run to fifty-three matches in twelve tournaments, completed the double atonement of winning back the British Open in May and World Open in October, and was asked to utter opinions on almost everything.
 
That became David's day-to-day burden after being awarded two of Malaysia's highest civil honours, the Order of Merit, and the title of Datuk. Henceforth she needs the deftness of a diplomat. Every word uttered will be weighed.
 
That, at twenty-five, is asking much, though David certainly managed also adjusting her game to the challenges of point-a-rally 11-up scoring which made its debut on the Women’s World Tour at the Malaysian Open in July.
 
David has clearly added to her game and also achieved a greater calm in 2008. By the end of the year, she had been World No.1 for fully two and a half years. By contrast it was a difficult year for Rachael Grinham, who lost her World and British Open titles and whose dip in form was possibly related to her desire to leave Cairo after five years and move closer to her sister Natalie in Amsterdam.
 
There were upheavals for the younger Grinham too. She began 2008 with a foot injury, was unwell before the World Open, and had to cope with the emotional twangs of representing The Netherlands for the first time instead of her native Australia.
 
And so the year's first meeting between the two top players ended anti-climactically, with Natalie Grinham retired at 9-1 9-6 down and 6-6 in the third game, leaving David to win the Apawamis Open Champion in the USA.
 
The next month David returned home to Malaysia, somehow coped with adulation which would have turned a lesser person's mind, and beat Natalie again, this time by 9-4 9-2
9-2, to win a fifth KL Open title.
 
And in June came another atonement, at the Seoul Open, where David had flunked against Rachael Grinham a year earlier. This time she retrieved deficits in all three games in a 9-5 10-9 9-6 win. She beat Rachael again, by 8-11 11-3 11-5 11-8 at the Singapore Masters in August, and overcame Natalie once more, by 11-9 11-9 11-4 in a Dutch Open final of monster rallies in September.
 
It set up David nicely for the World Open, but was ominously disappointing for the Grinhams, who both failed to make the Manchester semi-finals. Another who fell early was former World No.1 Natalie Grainger, even though this was the city of her birth.
 
However Grainger won the Burning River Cleveland Classic in February and the Central Bank Texas Open in May, and the Weymuller Open in November to bring to eight the number of titles she has won on adopted home soil since becoming a US citizen early in 2007.
 
But 2008 ended much as it had begun. David won the Qatar Classic by beating Natalie Grinham 11-7 11-3 11-9 in less than half an hour and ended the Tour by overcoming Rachael Grinham 14-12 11-13 11-8 11-8 in the final of the Hong Kong Open, though this time the elder Grinham played better than before.
 
It was David's thirty-fourth career title, though more significant were her words. "There are still areas I'm working on at the moment, like getting a real consistency on my focus from the first rally to the last," Nicol said. How ominous for 2009 does that sound.
 
Issued by iSPORTmedia

By Richard Eaton
It was the year in which Nicol David made another leap of status. She changed from pan-Asian celebrity to international sage.