January 26, 2008 / 2:41 AM / 12 years ago

Lookalike Tsonga reveals Ali connection

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pumps his fist during his semi-final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

MELBOURNE (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.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond

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