Paire could face Bautista Agut in a deciding rubber on Sunday

Villeneuve-d’Ascq (France) (AFP) - French captain Yannick Noah admitted on Thursday that handing Benoit Paire a Davis Cup debut in the semi-finals against Spain “was not an easy choice”.

With Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga both missing the last-four tie at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy after struggling with injuries this year, Noah has opted to play Paire in Friday’s opening singles match ahead of Richard Gasquet.

Noah, who led France to their first Davis Cup since 2001 last year, made light of Paire’s reputation as a hothead, despite the 29-year-old being fined $16,500 for an epic meltdown in Washington last month which saw him smash three rackets.

“It wasn’t an easy choice,” he told reporters. “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.”

Noah said he had made his choice after seeing how well the world number 54 had fitted into the French setup.

“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.”

Paire will take on Pablo Carreno Busta in Friday’s first singles match, before French number one Lucas Pouille faces Roberto Bautista Agut, with a place in the final against either Croatia or the United States up for grabs.