Nicol David, whose status as the highest profile and best paid female ever has had a galvanising effect upon Natalie Grinham, who parallels her rival both by living in Amsterdam and by developing her game in close dialogue with a full-time coach.
It was Grinham who surprised David at the Commonwealth Games last year in Melbourne, it was Grinham who pushed David's fifty-one match unbeaten run on to the buffers in Seoul, and it was Grinham who gave her a scare in a wonderful World Open final in Belfast.
The sixty seconds which followed David's triumph there were uniquely revealing. She was paralysed in expression and movement, unable to react or leave the court. "I sort of couldn't let go," she said.
It was an emotionally straitjacketed response which many spectators missed, because an empathetic Grinham slipped unobtrusively back into the court and ushered David off.
The Australian knows she has been getting closer, though that may in turn have had a motivating effect upon David's long-term project to become a better all-round player.
If there is to be a surprise challenge it could come from Natalie Grainger who has recovered from injury and illness to reclaim a top five place for the first time in eighteen months.
The Manchester-born former South African also celebrated becoming a US citizen by notching up a hat-trick of titles in her new home country.
But time may now be short for the former World No.1. That should focus her mind and make Grainger's short game even more an area to beware. Last chance saloon attracts dangerous gunslingers. will both make equally challenging defences of the sports most prestigious title.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse
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