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France captain snubs Monfils for Davis Cup match in Japan

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PARIS (AP) France will be without its two best players when it faces Japan in the first round of the Davis Cup after captain Yannick Noah left Gael Monfils out of his squad and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was granted leave for family reasons.

Noah is reproaching the country's top player for a perceived lack of investment, hinting that the sixth-ranked Monfils is giving priority to his personal goals. Tsonga has been allowed to skip the Feb. 3-5 series to stay with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

Monfils lost to Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at the Australian Open and 12th-ranked Tsonga made it to the quarterfinals, beaten in straight sets by Stan Wawrinka.

Noah's decision is the latest development in the shaky relationship between the former French Open champion and Monfils. In September, Noah criticized Monfils for pulling out at the last minute from France's semifinal series against Croatia. Earlier last year, Monfils had also publicly criticized Noah's decision to play a first-round match against Canada in the remote island of Guadeloupe, questioning the venue choice because of the logistics involved.

''He had his best season last year but played only one singles (Davis Cup) match in Guadeloupe,'' Noah said Tuesday during a conference call. ''In the quarterfinals, he was unable to play, but he won a tournament the week after. And he could not play in the semifinals just after reaching the last four at the U.S. Open.''

France missed the opportunity to reach a second Davis Cup final in three years, losing 3-2 in last year's semifinals in Croatia. Noah said he is convinced Monfils should have tried to play despite his knee problems following his strong display at Flushing Meadows.

''I have been utterly disappointed in Zadar,'' Noah said. ''It was four or five months ago, but for us it feels like yesterday.''

Monfils' good run at the Australian Open had no effect on Noah, who said he made his choice in December to protect his squad's cohesion.

''It's better if Gael remains on the sidelines of the team. This decision does not surprise anybody,'' he said, adding that Monfils ''needs to prove he is really motivated.''

The French team traveling to Tokyo will be made up of Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Japan's best player, Kei Nishikori, said he is skipping the best-of-five series on the indoor hard court of the Ariake Colosseum because of a packed schedule.