Nicol David breezes through her first round match at Hong Kong Open
Malaysian world number one gets off to a good start on her 31st birthday in her quest for a 10th consecutive Hong Kong Open title
Nicol David turned 31 yesterday, showing no sign age is slowing her down as she began her campaign for an incredible 10th straight Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open title with a straightforward victory over Malaysian compatriot Delia Arnold.
Her opponents, no doubt frustrated by David's long reign as world number one, might have taken note of last week's slip-up against Egypt's Raneem El Welily in the Malaysian Open semi-final.
But David brushed aside any thoughts time was catching up, saying it was just a hiccup and she was intent on getting back to winning ways by defending her title in Hong Kong.
"I don't think it has anything to do with age; it 's just that there are better players out there and they are hungry for success. You give them an inch and they will take it and more," David said after her 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 opening-round victory against compatriot Delia Arnold.
"I have always enjoyed coming to Hong Kong and I hope this week will be a confidence booster, especially with the Asian Games coming up," David said.
Her imperious reign over the last decade includes eight successive years as world number one, seven times World Open champion and winner of the last two Asian Games gold medals. She says she has every intention of carrying on "for at least another five or six years".
"Yes, she has lost a couple of times in recent months but I would say she is still the hot favourite in Incheon," says Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin, the former Hong Kong number one who shocked David in the gold medal final at the 2002 Asiad in Pusan.
Twelve years have flown by and the wheel has turned full circle as the Games head back to South Korea.
Can Hong Kong's current crop, led by Annie Au Wing-chi and Joey Chan Ho-ling, pull it off?
Chiu, who will be Incheon as coach of the women's team, said: "There is a 60-40 chance. Nicol is older but she is still a classy player. Our players will have to be at the top of their game."
World number 23 Chan agreed: "Nicol is still a great champion. It will be very tough but we will be going for it."
The left-handed Chan, who won a bronze medal in the women's individual event at the Guangzhou Games four years ago, beat Dutch qualifier Milou van der Heijden 11-3, 11-6, 11-4.
Hong Kong number one and world No. 9 Au will begin her campaign today against Egypt's Heba El Torky.