Davis Cup 2018: Benoit Paire to open for France against Spain

Paire was picked instead of Richard Gasquet and will play the opening singles for the defending champions against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on an indoor hard court in the northern city of Lille.

The hot-tempered Paire was sent home from the Rio Olympics after the French Tennis Federation accused him of breaking team rules. (File Photo)   -  AFP

Benoit Paire will debut for France in the Davis Cup semifinals on Friday, two years after being sent home from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Paire was picked instead of Richard Gasquet and will play the opening singles for the defending champions against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on an indoor hard court in the northern city of Lille. Lucas Pouille, who won the decisive fifth match in 2017 final, will, then, play Roberto Bautista Agut.

The hot-tempered Paire was sent home from the Rio Olympics after the French Tennis Federation accused him of breaking team rules, but France Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah said that he fitted in well in his squad.

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“We also wait to see when he will break five or six rackets,” Noah joked during the news conference at the draw on Thursday.

“It wasn't an easy choice. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play. Let's wait until he breaks five or six rackets, you'll all love it and when you look at my face it'll be a funny sight.”

“I try to take everything into consideration - the head-to-heads, past matches, scores... for this match it didn't take me long to make up my mind. Benoit is going to start. He very quickly integrated into the team in training sessions and it went really well. He's in good shape and he's playing well.”

In the doubles on Saturday, Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut are set to face Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez. In the reverse singles, Pouille is scheduled to take on Carreno Busta, while Paire should be up against Bautista Agut. Noah has the option to use Gasquet on Sunday.

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Spain is without top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who was ruled out because of the right knee injury that forced him to retire from his U.S. Open semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro last week.

“I thought Gasquet would be playing. But, I’m sure that they gave it a deep thought. Both teams can win the five points, it will be a very open semifinal,” said Spain captain Sergi Bruguera, who previously worked with the French player on the tour.

The tie is at the 27,500-seat Pierre Mauroy Stadium, with the roof closed.  France won its 10th Davis Cup title last year in the same venue, beating Belgium 3-2.

The teams are meeting for the ninth time, with Spain leading 6-2.  Croatia is hosting the United States in the other semifinal.