It’s not time for the coffee just yet as LJ finds a new thirst for squash after five months’ injury absence
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Dutch ace LJ Anjema is really looking forward to the Canary Wharf Classic. After five months out with an injury, the former world No.9 faces a massive match-up against No.3 seed Borja Golan in the first round. With a new-found thirst for the game, LJ is keen to repeat the 3-2 victory he achieved against the Spaniard in one of his last tournaments before he suffered his injury. He reached the semi-finals in Shanghai in September, and then the quarter-finals in San Francisco.
CANARY WHARF SQUASH CLASSIC:
11 POINTS WITH LJ ANJEMA
INTERVIEW BY ALAN THATCHER
1: LJ, good to see you back on court after a long injury absence. What was the injury and how long has it taken to regain full fitness?
A: I had a bone spur in my left foot. A bone spur forms as the body tries to repair itself by building extra bone. It typically forms in response to pressure, rubbing, or stress that continues over a long period of time. I had surgery mid-November to get rid of it. The rehab took three months, but then you’ve only sorted our your foot. I realize now how fine-tuned we ‘normally’ are, as athletes, and how difficult it is to get back there.
2: Where is your home club? And who are your main coaches and training partners?
A: I play for Maastricht in the south of Holland but my hometown is The Hague, which is near the beach. My coach is former national champion Lucas Buit and I train with Cameron Pilley, Steve Finitsis, Sebastian Weenink and Piëdro Schweertman, who all live close-by.
3: What are the most important things you have learned about fitness training for squash during your career?
A: That less is more, until it’s not enough. You’re continually walking this fine line of training too much, too little, depending on where you are in the season. I’ve learned that a session in the gym should not last longer than 75 minutes and should not necessarily deplete you.
4: What are your thoughts on squash’s bid to become an Olympic sport?
A: Squash is the hardest sport in the world. A lot of sports are technical and physical, but apart from those components, in squash you need to be tactically smart like a chess player at the same time, and mentally strong enough not to lose four points in a row because you got a bad decision and your opponent is in your face. It’s truly a gladiatorial sport. I am surprised that the Olympic Games have not recognized it.
5: What do you enjoy / hate the most about travelling the world to play squash?
A: Before I got injured, I took things for granted a bit, about my life as a pro squash player. Another plane here, another jetlag there. Physically pushing all the time. During my five months at home I started missing the travelling, the airports, wandering on my own, living in strange cities, if only for a week, drinking coffee with a stranger in a place I don’t know. And I realized how cool it is to make money hitting this little rubber ball against a wall.
6: The professional game is evolving all the time. What would you say are the biggest changes you have seen in your own professional career?
A: I don’t know. Maybe the game is quicker. It might be more attacking. It doesn’t really matter. You get ‘new’ opponents and you just have to adapt.
7: Who is your favourite squash player of all time, and why?
A: Anthony Rickets. I liked his presence and aggression on court.
8: You have a tough first round tie against Spanish number one Borja Golan. He, too, knows a thing or two about injuries. How have your matches gone in the past, and what are you expecting at Canary Wharf?
A: I played him in Shanghai just before I got injured and I won 3-2. This match at Canary Wharf will be a great test to see where I’m at.
9: Whatever the result, you have some commitments during the tournament with your racket sponsors, Harrow, who are the Official Racket for Canary Wharf 2015. What attracted you to the Harrow brand?
A: It’s a young, cool, growing American brand with great rackets. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?!
10: If you could change one rule in squash, what would it be and why?
A: I wouldn’t change a thing. The game is great as it is. After our failed Olympic Bid, we have the tendency to look at our sport and ask ourselves; what’s wrong with it? That’s ridiculous. Let’s turn it around. The game is better than ever before. The change to the low-tin invites attacking squash and requires incredible athleticism. The 11-PAR scoring makes the game even more entertaining. The portable glass court with LED lighting is as spectacular as it gets. The super slow-motion cameras capture action you can’t see with the naked eye. As a sport, we are ready!
11: At 32, are you beginning to plan for a career after your playing days have finished? If so, what direction will that take you?
A: I have a new-found hunger for the game, so I’m not done for a while. I’m going to use this body of mine playing squash till it can’t compete any more.
I’m a big coffee lover, I did a barista course, so when I’m finished I’ll start my own coffee stall in town and I will make amazing coffees for everyone that walks in and tell them stories about my previous life as an athlete and they’ll be like: ‘Yeah, right…’
Canary Wharf Classic 2015: Full details here