GIJON, Spain (AP) — Even without Rafael Nadal, Spain presents a formidable challenge to the United States' bid to reach the Davis Cup final.
Defending champion Spain welcomes the Americans after having won the last two series between them. Spain hasn't lost on clay, or at home, in 13 years. The Americans will play without Andy Roddick, who retired after the U.S. Open.
"Spain is the favorite. They could make three or four Davis Cup teams with how many players they have. (But) we'll take our chances," U.S. captain Jim Courier said Thursday. "The preparation is the same for us, no different. It's all about execution."
John Isner stepped in to fill the void of Roddick's departure, with wins over Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon as he swept all four of his singles matchups in 2012.
Querrey will open Friday's singles against David Ferrer before Isner plays Nicolas Almagro. Isner and Sam Querrey are a combined 6-7 on clay.
"Our team has played in some tough environments before and we expect a tough environment tomorrow," said Isner, who earned his four wins against Switzerland and France. "It's going to be a big challenge, but it's not going to be anything I'm not used to."
They'll play reverse singles on Sunday if neither team sweeps the best-of-five series. The winner will play the Czech Republic or Argentina in the final in November.
Ferrer and Almagro have a combined 21-1 record on the surface, making Nadal's injury absence a minor issue for captain Alex Corretja.
The fifth-ranked Ferrer, coming off a U.S. Open semifinal appearance, has had less time to recover but insists he'll be ready.
Ferrer will meet Querrey on clay for the first time after splitting their two previous matches on hard court. Querrey is playing Davis Cup for the first time in more than two years, with Mardy Fish and Ryan Harrison playing in previous series.