( AP )- It took seven set points, but Novak Djokovic finally won the third set against Jo- Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 to take a two sets to one lead in the Australian Open men's final Sunday night.
Tsonga won the first set 6-4, and Djokovic responded by winning the second by the same 6-4 margin at Rod Laver Arena.
As for Tsonga, he seemed like a natural when it comes to settling into the Champ's shoes. A Muhammad Ali lookalike , he reached the final in only his fifth Grand Slam tournament and was set for a shot at the title against the third-ranked Djokovic .
Despite his No. 38 ranking, Tsonga was considered a serious title contender after his semifinal upset of No. 2 Rafael Nadal that followed victories over three other top 15 players.
Hours before Maria Sharapova won the women's final 7-5, 6-3 over Ana Ivanovic on Saturday, Tsonga attended a news conference and told a story of his links to Ali.
"My father was at the fight at Kinshasa because he's from Brazzaville," Tsonga said, talking of the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" when Ali regained the heavyweight title from George Foreman in October, 1974 in what was then known as Zaire.
"He took some photos, so I have some souvenir."
Tsonga's parents, former Congo international handball player and now chemistry teacher Didier and mother Evelyne , were flying to Melbourne from France to attend the final.
It's been 80 years since a Frenchman won the Australian Open - Jean Borotra in 1928. Five other Frenchmen have advanced to major finals in the Open era, with only Yannick Noah going on to capture the title, at the 1983 French Open.
Just like Ali, Tsonga had the media eating out of his hands.
Revealing that Ali was not exactly a childhood idol, despite the nickname because of the uncanny resemblance, Tsonga said he'd grown to admire the great boxer and maybe took some of Ali's "personality on the court".
"Maybe I think I have the same tennis as his boxing!" he said.
Meanwhile, no Serbian has won a major and Djokovic is determined to end that drought after snapping Roger Federer's run of 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals.
It's the first time since Marat Safin upset Federer in the semifinals here and went on to win the 2005 Australian title that neither Federer nor Nadal will be a Grand Slam champion.
"I think every sport is waiting to have some new faces," the 20-year-old Djokovic said. "Tsonga is coming up. He's just an amazing athlete. He's been performing some impressive tennis in these two weeks - as have I.
"I still didn't lose even a set here in Australian Open, which is also amazing."
Djokovic is confident, having become the youngest man in the Open era to reach the semifinals at all four majors and saying he'd learned a lot from his U.S. Open final loss to Federer .
"It's going to be interesting very much to see young players playing against each other. Obviously, we will not have anything to lose," Djokovic said. "I've been working very hard in the past year and a half, so it's paying off right now."
Tsonga is being extra casual about it, considering this is the first time he's advanced beyond the fourth round of a major.
"It's the same, because Nadal is two in the world and Djokovic is three, so both of them won a lot of tournaments and they have more experience than me," he said. "I know it's going to be difficult, but I'm here and ready for that."
He dismantled three-time French Open champion Nadal with an audacious forehand, some nerve-defying serving and an incredible physical presence.
Tsonga's rise has been phenomenal after spending the best part of the 2005 and 2006 seasons recovering from back and abdominal injuries.
The former second-ranked junior player, Tsonga was ranked 345 at the end of '05, 212 in '06 and 43 at the end of last season.
He beat No. 9 Andy Murray in his opening-round match and followed with wins over No. 8 Richard Gasquet and No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny .
He's projected to jump to No. 18 if he loses the final or No. 9 if he wins - and he's never won an ATP Tour-level title.