Friday, March 1, 2024

Dutch ace LJ Anjema retires


Coffee can wait as LJ chooses career in IT


Former World No.9 Laurens Jan Anjema has announced his retirement from professional squash after a glittering 15-year career that saw him become the highest-ranked Dutchman of all time.

The 33-year-old, who hails from Den Haag, Netherlands, was a prolific member of the PSA World Tour, and lifted 12 titles from 32 finals, winning 272 of 447 matches over 182 tournaments.

Following in his father’s footsteps as a professional, he worked hard under coach Neil Harvey in London, becoming an important member of a group of players training at the Connaught Club in Essex.

Anjema made history in his native country in March 2007 when he overtook compatriot Tommy Berden to become the highest ranked Dutchman ever, and broke into the world’s top ten for the first time in December 2010, in addition to claiming nine successive Dutch Nationals titles between 2006-2014 before adding a 10th in February of this year.

An ankle injury, sustained towards the end of 2014, looked to have brought an early end to the career of one of the most entertaining players on the PSA World Tour, but a period of rehabilitation saw him return to the Tour in early 2015.

Anjema, whose last appearance on the PSA World Tour saw him reach the semi-final of the GillenMarkets Irish Squash Open, has joined his sponsor, Hero Business Solutions, on an internship specialising in IT mediation.

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“There’s a fine line between heroically trying to achieve something or repeatedly banging your head against a wall,” said Anjema.

“During last season I have experienced the latter too much. As an athlete I need to be honest with myself and recognise when a comeback is no longer realistic.

“I have had a fantastic career, I have gotten to know what it feels like to perform at your absolute best. Those moments were rare. On the one hand it’s quite magical, but on the other hand, when you’re in that moment, it feels like the most normal thing in the world.

“I’m forever thankful to my former coach and mentor, Neil Harvey, who has been a major influence not only on my career, but also on me as a person.”

Speaking about the moment he reached the world’s top ten, Anjema added: “After a brutal but very fine-tuned summer’s training, I put together a solid string of results, which got me to World No.9.

“It felt like an amazing achievement, and it was, but the lifestyle I had to obey to was quite extreme.”

In an interview ahead of last year’s Canary Wharf Classic, Anjema hinted that he might fancy opening his own coffee shop when he retired from playing.

Back from a trip to South Africa, he said at the time: “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, and 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…”

Plans for the coffee shop may well be on hold. But from all the team at Squash Mad, we wish LJ the very best for the future.

READERS are invited to share their memories of LJ’s favourite matches below.  


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