Lookalike Tsonga reveals Ali connection
MELBOURNE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's resemblance to a young Muhammad Ali has caused quite a stir at the year's first grand slam.
The young French tennis player does, however, have a more tangible connection with the former world heavyweight boxing champion.
Tsonga's father Didier, who arrives in Australia on Sunday before the final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic, was at the famous 1974 "Rumble in The Jungle" fight in the former Zaire between Ali and then world champion George Foreman.
"My father was at the fight at Kinshasa because he's from Brazzaville," Tsonga told an astonished press pack on Saturday. "He took some photos, so I have some souvenirs." The 22-year-old said he had not thought of Ali as a sporting hero growing up, but he is now well aware of the "Louisville Lip" and his impact on world sport. "Yeah, of course, I watch some DVDs," Tsonga said, adding that there were other things he admired in the 66-year-old. "Maybe his personality on the court. Maybe I think I have the same (in) tennis as his (in) boxing."
Underdog Tsonga ready to take on the world
By Greg Stutchbury
MELBOURNE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga smiled, gave a typically Gallic shrug of the shoulders and considered his answer.
"I don't know," he told reporters when asked about what the secret was to his amazing run to Sunday's final against third seed Novak Djokovic. "Because maybe I don't want to play bad," he added with a smile and another shrug.
The 22-year-old's broad shoulders have provided the impetus needed to blast past four seeds, including a demolition of number two Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, to set up his first grand slam final against Serbia's Djokovic.
In doing so, he is the first Frenchman to reach a grand slam final since Arnaud Clement met Andre Agassi at Melbourne Park in 2001. Only one other Frenchman -- Yannick Noah at Roland Garros in 1983 -- has won a grand slam title in the Open era.
If he beats Djokovic he would be the first Frenchman to win the Australian Open title since Jean Borotra in 1928, and only the third man in the Open era to claim his first ATP tour title at a grand slam.
That history does not appear to be weighing on him.
"I not believe it, but I'm here and I have to do it," he said."Just play, just do my best, and that's it.
"I will see what happens on the court but I will do my best. If I win, that's unbelievable. And if I lose, I did my best, so no problem."
Djokovic, however, faces greater pressure to succeed having disposed of world number one and defending champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
The Serb knows he will be the favourite on Sunday, having not dropped a set in the tournament and having played in a grand slam final, at last year's U.S. Open.
"Looking at the rankings I would be the favourite," the 20-year-old Serb said. "I have more experience in these important matches, and I have been already in the grand slam finals.
"But ...it's very dangerous to play against somebody who is first time in a grand slam final who has nothing to lose.
"I've seen many of his matches. I was impressed with the way he plays.
"He's just living the dream. For him it's a great achievement. So I think he's going to go for the shots."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)