It was 30 years ago when Datuk Nicol David picked up her first squash racket. The sport was initially meant to keep the young five-year-old occupied from running around. Little did her parents know their “distraction” would become a trampoline that propelled Datuk Nicol into the world’s professional squash arena.

Since announcing her retirement in February, we spoke to the queen of squash about her journey as a professional squash player and role model. “I want to help girls realise their full potential through sports. The game of squash has done so much for me and I believe children should be exposed to different sports. Not only is it healthy, but it also develops good virtues and discipline. With my next phase in life, I will remain involved in the world of squash, while impacting the lives of others with what I have learned.”

Tatler Asia
Datuk Nicol David beat Rowan Elaraby 3-0 at PSA World Tour
Above Datuk Nicol David beat Rowan Elaraby 3-0 at PSA World Tour

Growing up, how did you juggle going to school and competing?

Playing squash really helped me learned how to manage my time and be disciplined when it came to my studies. The sport helped me stay alert while I studied. Growing up I understood I had limited time to study because I had to travel a lot for competitions, so I made the most of the time I had.

My family kept me grounded as well. I had the best upbringing with my family. My parents gave my sisters and I so much love that they created this loving and healthy environment to grow up in. They gave us simple but important values to live by, and to respect people always. One of the values that I’ve been taught is to treat people the way you want to be treated, and without this, I believe I would not have been able to become the professional squash player that I am today.

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Childhood photos of Datuk Nicol David and her family
Above Datuk Nicol David with her mum and dad

Tell us about how you overcome failure.

I have had different phases of hardship in my life. I went through my transition from being a junior player to a professional player, tough loses to being at the top of the world, and then not being at number 1 anymore. These were all moments that needed loads of support from my family, support team and friends, and I am grateful that I went through them and grew from these experiences. These tough moments have made me a better and stronger person to be ready for anything that comes my way, whether in competition or in life.

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Datuk Nicol David holds Wilson tennis racket
Above Datuk Nicol David holds Wilson tennis racket

How have your experiences and resilience prepared you for your next phase in life?

The experience of being a professional squash player has been very gratifying. Being on tour competing with such pressure and intensity in terms of training and mental preparation has taught me a lot about my capabilities to achieve all that I set my mind to achieve. This has given me the confidence that I need to pursue other things to come after my squash career.

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Datuk Nicol David shakes the hand of her opponent
Above Datuk Nicol David shakes the hand of her opponent

What should everyone know before turning 30?

I personally feel everyone goes through life figuring things out at their own pace. Some sooner than others. For me, I had the privilege of enjoying everything there is before the age of 30, but at this age you’ll learn to appreciate life and your own values so much more in your 30s. 

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