Malaysia's Nicol David was named as Female Player of the Year at the 2007 World Squash Awards last night (Friday) in London.
A star-studded gathering, featuring top players past and present as well as leading Squash figures from around the world, gathered at the RAC Club in Pall Mall to honour the sport's most distinguished contributors.
Remarkably, Nicol David - of whom heads her respective world ranking - has claimed the top award for the second successive year.
During a year in which she established a 50-match unbeaten run, Nicol David surprisingly faltered in the World Open in Madrid. But the plucky 24-year-old from Penang came back stronger than ever to win both the Qatar Classic and Hong Kong Open - and bring her 2007 WISPA World Tour title tally to eight, marking her best ever year. However, despite being taken close by World Open winner Rachael Grinham, David clinched the WISPA members' votes as Player of the Year for the third year in a row!
Shelley Kitchen, the New Zealander who sensationally stopped Nicol David in the second round of the World Open in Madrid, is recognised as WISPA's Most Improved Player of the Year. The 28-year-old from Auckland followed her surprise Commonwealth Games bronze medal success in 2006 by claiming four quarter-final berths in WISPA Gold events early in 2007 as a non-seed - and, four Tour titles later, Shelley went on to celebrate a career-high world No9 ranking in November.
Egyptian Ramy Ashour is the PSA Young Player of the Year for the second time. By the time he had celebrated his 20th birthday in September, the record two-time world junior champion had already picked up five PSA Tour titles in the year - all against seeding. In the Kuwait Open final in April, Ramy beat Amr Shabana for the first time - and in the November PSA world rankings, only failed by a margin of one point in more than a thousand to replace his compatriot at the top of the list! Later in the year, in his first appearance in the event, Ramy won the flagship PSA Tour championship, the Super Series Finals.
The award for WISPA Young Player of the Year went to Camille Serme, the 18-year-old from France who followed her second successive European Junior Championship win by reaching the final of the World Junior Championship in Hong Kong in August. In November, Serme celebrated her maiden Tour title win at the Santiago Open in Spain.
The 2007 World Squash Awards' Lifetime Achievement award was made to Heather McKay, AM, MBE, the distinguished Australian who won 16 consecutive British Open titles between 1962 and 1977. Considered by many to be the greatest female player in the history of the game, and possibly also Australia's greatest-ever sportswoman, Heather dominated the women's squash game in the 1960s and 1970s. She lost only two matches in her entire career (in 1960 and 1962), and was unbeaten in competitive squash matches from 1962 through to 1981, when she retired from active open squash.
Mrs McKay was disappointed not to have been able to attend the Awards: "I know the award has been awarded only twice before, to two of the legends of squash, Jahangir Khan and Jonah Barrington, so I am honoured to be the first female to receive this award," said McKay in a message read out at the ceremony.
"As you may have already guessed, squash has been a major part of my life having first started playing in 1959, winning my first major championship The Australian in 1960 and eventually retiring from open squash in 1981. I had no idea that when I had my first hit of squash I would be lucky enough to travel the world and make friends world wide, some of whom I still keep in touch with."
A special Services to Squash award was made to veteran squash correspondent Dicky Rutnagur. Widely believed have seen more top class competition squash than any other man alive, D.J. Rutnagur began covering the sport for the Daily Telegraph at the time that Hashim Khan made his international breakthrough - and has reported on all the sport's greats since then.
Those attending the 2007 Awards included England heroes Nick Matthew, James Willstrop and Peter Barker, who led England to a successful defence of the Men's World Team Championship title earlier in the month in India - and coach David Pearson; Award-winners Camille Serme and Shelley Kitchen; Australia's recently retired former world No4 Anthony Ricketts; former world champion Vanessa Atkinson, from the Netherlands; England's Jenny Duncalf and Alison Waters, members of the 2006 Women's World Team Championship-winning squad; England's former world No2 Peter Marshall; England captain and former World Doubles champion Chris Walker; Yorkshireman Simon Parke, the former US Open champion; Essex's Daryl Selby and Lauren Briggs; and former British National champion Geoff Williams.
The event was staged for the third year by Eventis Sports Marketing, the company formed by four-times Commonwealth Games gold medallist Peter Nicol and fellow directors Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland.