KUALA LUMPUR - With the Asian Games fast approaching, Malaysia's squash queen Nicol David is starting to feel the pressure after almost a decade at the top of her sport.
The world number one for eight years, seven times World Open champion and winner of the last two Asian Games titles failed to deliver on home soil at the weekend as she stumbled to defeat against Egypt's Raneem El Welily in the Malaysian Open.
David's semi-final defeat was only her second of the year - the other also coming in Malaysia at the World Open in March - which can be labelled a crisis for the 31-year-old, who has long dominated the sport and won every singles event in 2010.
David, who celebrates her birthday on Tuesday, said the defeats had come from carefree opponents going for their shots and warned she must not drop her concentration with the Sept. 19-Oct. 4 Games coming up in Incheon, South Korea.
"This season is going to be a long one and this (Malaysian Open) is one tournament you want to do well," she was quoted as saying by Malaysian media on Monday. "For me, every tournament I want to play well but there is no room for error or to let my guard down.
"I have to be at my peak always and that is tough. I love playing in Malaysia and I want to do well here and everyone else wants me to do well. "But the other players have nothing to lose and can just go for it."
Nicol was able to recover from her March defeat in Malaysia by rebounding with victory at the next World Series event, the British Open in May, and followed that up with the retention of her Commonwealth Games title in Scotland.
She has less time to wait for her next tournament this time, with her bid for a ninth consecutive Hong Kong Open getting underway on Tuesday.
Any failure there, however, will give her rivals more hope of a once unthinkable upset in South Korea next month.