Gijon, Spain – Singles victories by David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro gave reigning champion and host Spain a commanding 2-0 lead against the United States in a best-of-five Davis Cup semifinal in Gijon.
The world No. 5 U.S. Open semifinalist Ferrer dropped the opening set in the opening singles rubber before fighting back for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Sam Querrey, while the second match on Day 1 saw Almagro outlast 6-foot-9 American John Isner 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a grueling 4 hours, 16 minutes on the red clay at Parque Hermanos Castro.
The 6-foot-6 Querrey was unable to capitalize on his opportunities against Ferrer, as he went just 2-for-14 on break-point chances, including a dismal 0- for-9 in the fourth set on Friday.
Querrey is now just 1-5 in his career Davis Cup singles outings.
In the ultra-tight nightcap, Isner saved three match points against the world No. 12 Almagro, while trailing 4-5 in the fifth and final set, but a fourth proved one too many, as one final forehand from Isner sailed long, and Almagro celebrated by falling to the court on his back.
The towering Isner swatted 24 aces in a losing effort, one in which he was broken three times by Almagro, compared to two breaks for the American. The two stars combined for 327 total points, including 165 for the winner (165-162).
The sweet-swinging Almagro is filling in for Spanish great Rafael Nadal, the former No. 1 who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Isner, who is now 5-4 in his career Davis Cup singles, has a couple of big wins for the U.S. this year, as he stunned Roger Federer on clay in Switzerland in a first-round tie in February and topped Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on clay at the Monte Carlo Country Club in a quarterfinal showdown with France back in April.
Saturday's doubles bout tentatively pits American greats Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan against a Spanish duo of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, while Sunday's reverse singles currently pit the world No. 10 Isner against Ferrer and the No. 26 Querrey versus Almagro.
Ferrer is a dominant 20-4 in Davis Cup singles, including a flawless 15-0 on clay, while Almagro is now 8-2 overall, including 8-1 on the dirt.
The U.S. is captained by former No. 1 player Jim Courier, while Spain is guided by former world No. 2 star Alex Corretja.
Team USA and Spain have split 10 Davis Cup meetings, with the Spaniards winning the last two matchups, including a quarterfinal victory in Austin, Texas last year. Spain also beat team USA in the 2004 Davis Cup finale.
The United States boasts a record 32 Davis Cup titles, with its last one coming in 2007. The Americans won the inaugural prestigious team competition way back in 1900.
Spain beat Argentina in last year's World Group final in Seville, as the powerful Spaniards have won three-of-four and five of the last 12 Davis Cup titles. They have not lost at home, on clay, since 1999.
The winner between the U.S. and Spain will face the Argentina-Czech Republic victor in the 2012 final in November.