ALMOST LIKE FATHER, SON

TALENT: Yannick Noah became the darling of the French Open a few decades ago. © Unknown.
TALENT: Yannick Noah became the darling of the French Open a few decades ago. © Unknown.

PARIS - Yannick Noah's languid athleticism and talent propelled him to the French Open tennis title more than two decades ago and good genes and work ethic has meant son Joakim is making his mark in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls.

PARIS - Yannick Noah's languid athleticism and talent propelled him to the French Open tennis title more than two decades ago and good genes and work ethic has meant son Joakim is making his mark in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls.

Yannick, the 1983 Roland Garros champion, watched Joakim play at Madison Square Garden, New York, for the first time last month against the Knicks.

Last year, Noah junior had a brush with the Florida justice system when he was fined $200, and given six-months probation for marijuana-possession and other misdemeanours, including having an open container of alcohol, driving with a non-valid licence and not wearing a seat belt.

It all came in May, just after he had finished his first season with the Bulls, averaging 6,6 points in 74 games, having been picked by Chicago in the NBA draft in June 2007.

Father Yannick saw the episode as a negative to be transformed into a positive.

"I was more talented in my sport than he is in his," Noah senior told l'Equipe magazine of the 2,10m, 105kg 23-year-old centre.

"I try to teach him everything I know and then after that it's up to him," said Yannick.

Chicago lost 102-98 to the Knicks but Joakim's performance showed that his greater fitness was paying off.

The experience of his 48-year-old father helped Joakim in many ways, even at subtle levels. "I learned a lot of things unconsciously at my father's side," Joakim said. "He showed me the basic things that needed to be done for an elite athlete."

Father and son now both live in New York but little Joakim remembered well his basketball matches with dad, known as "the Shaq" of Nainville, a town where they used to live to the south of Paris.

When he reached the ages of about 12 to 14, Joakim used to play more one-on-ones with his dad who never made things easy in their basketball battles. "I always used to rough him up," Noah said. "Then one day, he got better than me, so I quit basketball!" - Sapa-AP

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