Nov 22 (Reuters) - France captain Yannick Noah sprang a surprise at Thursday’s Davis Cup final draw ceremony when he named Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as his singles players for the opening day’s action in Lille.
Already without the likes of Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils for the final against Croatia, Noah decided to leave out the top-ranked player in his team Lucas Pouille.
World number 40 Chardy will open the tie on Friday against Croatia’s Borna Coric with Tsonga then taking on Marin Cilic.
Cilic and Coric are ranked seventh and 12th respectively.
Tsonga, 259th in the ATP rankings, missed seven months of the year because of knee surgery and has played only 11 singles matches this year on the Tour.
He lost in the first round in his most recent tournaments, in Vienna and Paris.
Leaving out the 32nd-ranked Pouille is a potential gamble although the 33-year-old Tsonga, a former world number five, has a fine pedigree and a big-match character. He also played in last year’s final when France beat Belgium.
Saturday’s doubles will see home pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues-Herbert take on Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig.
Sunday’s reverse singles would see Tsonga face Coric and Chardy take on Cilic although the captains are allowed to change their teams.
France are the defending champions and are trying to win the title for the 11th time, while Croatia are seeking to repeat their triumph of 2005 when they won the cup in Slovakia.
The final, being played on clay inside the 28,000-seater Stade Pierre Mauroy, is the last one before the century-old competition is revamped next year. (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis)