France captain Yannick Noah sprung a surprise on Thursday when he announced that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy would contest the opening round of singles in this weekend’s Davis Cup final against Croatia.
Noah was expected to go with his highest-ranked singles player Lucas Pouille — 32 in the rankings — who sealed victory in last year’s final against Belgium.
Instead Chardy, ranked 40, will lead the 10-time champions against Borna Coric in the opening singles on the clay courts of the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille on Friday.
Former world number five Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is currently ranked down at 259, only returned to action in September after missing most of the season through injury.
He has the job of facing world number seven Marin Cilic in the second singles tie.
“It has been a long road to get back on the courts,” said Tsonga. “I am very happy that Yannick had confidence in me. I feel I have earned my place and I hope to prove it this weekend.”
Cilic leads the head to head with Tsonga 5-2, winning their only meeting on clay in Monte Carlo in 2015.
Tsonga also played down fears that he had injured his right shoulder in training on Tuesday.
“Today, I am feeling very good,” he said.
Chardy has never played in a Davis Cup final but the 31-year-old has represented France in other rounds and is unbeaten on indoor clay, his favourite surface, in the competion.
Saturday’s doubles sees Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who last week reached the final of the ATP Finals in London, take on Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig.
Pouille may yet feature in the reverse singles on Sunday.
Draw for Davis Cup final (French players first):
Friday — singles
Jeremy Chardy v Borna Coric
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Marin Cilic
Saturday — doubles
Nicolas Mahut/Pierre-Hugues Herbert v Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig
Sunday – singles, to be announced