18-Year-Old Mark Lajal Trains With Novak Djokovic at Mouratoglou Academy Ahead of Monte Carlo Masters 2021

Published 04/09/2021, 1:48 PM EDT
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 09: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates defeating Gael Monfils of France with a score of 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 during their Men’s Singles Semifinal Match on Day Twelve of the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)


 Emerging Estonian tennis player Mark Lajal has shared a clip of a hit with World No.1 Novak Djokovic. A delighted Lajal, who is still finding his feet around the ITF circuit but has been marked out as a future star, posted the clip on his Instagram page and tagged it with a message thanking the Serb for agreeing to spar with him.

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Mark Lajal takes to Instagram to thank Novak Djokovic for hitting with him

In the clip, the 17-year-old Estonian is seen trading shots with Djokovic and winning the exchange at the end of it.

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The practice hit went down at the Mouratoglou Academy in France.

“Thank you for giving me the chance to hit with you @djokernole…big merci goes to @mouratoglou_tennis_academy and @kareiabakar for this opportunity,” read the message the young Estonian tagged his message with.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will headline the draw at Monte Carlo Masters 2021

Djokovic has been off Tour action since braving an abdominal muscle tear on the way to winning a record ninth Australian Open title this year.

A clip went up on the ITF’s official Twitter account recently showing the World No.1 playing tennis with his son and wife in Monte Carlo. If that clip bore the first signs of him getting back into the swing of things, the one shared by Lajal marks definite progress with regard to fitness.

In a more intense sparring session than the casual hit with his wife and son, the Serb is seen stretching for a forehand and sliding into a backhand down-the-line with no visible discomfort.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – October 11, 2020, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Spain’s Rafael Nadal during the final REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Along with 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, Djokovic will topline this year’s Monte Carlo draw, which also features defending champion Fabio Fognini, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Andrey Rublev, among others.

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The Serb won the prestigious Masters 1000 title in 2013, beating the Spaniard in the final.

Concerns around the novel coronavirus pandemic had forced the organizers to cancel the event last year.

With not a single Tour match under his belt since his Melbourne Park hurrah, the Serb might find the going tough in the principality.

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Nadal, who too hasn’t featured in any Tour events since his semi-final exit at the Australian Open, will be looking to regain the crown and set the tone for a title defense at Roland-Garros.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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