The United States has reached the end of the road in its Davis Cup run.
The Americans couldn't overcome Spain's superiority on clay, falling when David Ferrer beat John Isner 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Sunday to secure the defending champions an insurmountable 3-1 lead in their semifinal.
The U.S. is now quite happy to ditch its road warrior tag following the loss.
The Americans' strong 2012 run included away victories over both Roger Federer-led Switzerland and France on clay. But even those impressive victories couldn't propel it past the world's top clay-court nation, with Ferrer remaining unbeaten on the surface for his 16th victory.
Three straight road series took a toll on a U.S. team missing the retired Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish because of health issues, but captain Jim Courier expects his young team to remain positive heading into 2013.
He was also hoping Wednesday's draw would be a little more helpful, too.
"There is a lot for this team to be proud of and what we have achieved this year — the way we have approached it, attacked it and the draw, the obstacles we have had," Courier said Sunday. "We have been given the most difficult draw that you can have in this era to play the teams we have on the road. We had some great wins and we had some competitive losses."
Wednesday's draw for next season's World Group play will determine the 32-time champions' first opponent, with the Americans having about a 50-percent chance of hosting to open.
"We'll be ready for whatever happens, (but) it would be really nice to have a home tie, we didn't have one this year," Courier said. "The schedule is terrible for the players after the Australian Open."
Isner had been 4-0 on clay this season, including singles wins over Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but the 10th-ranked American couldn't maintain his strong start on Sunday. Isner was undone by 74 unforced errors and his own frustrations as the match against the fifth-ranked Ferrer slipped away.
"It is disappointing; the Spanish team in my opinion is just too good. They won the important points and it is a bit discouraging for me," said Isner, who lost in five sets to Nicolas Almagro on Friday.
The victory over Federer in Fribourg was probably the season's highlight.
"You live and you learn," Isner said after failing to keep the tie alive following the Bryan brothers' doubles victory on Saturday.
Courier's second season ended the same as his first — with a loss to Spain, which goes on to play the Czech Republic in November's final.
He's had to juggle his singles lineup around Isner due to Fish's absence. Ryan Harrison played against France and Sam Querrey played Spain, with the pair going 0-3. Still, Courier is certain the experience of this season will bear fruit.
"We take some solace in (how close we were), but a win is a win and a loss is a loss. There is some silver lining in what this team has achieved this season," Courier said. "The Spaniards knew how to win key points in the matches they won.
"They have individual players, great depth and great passion for Davis Cup. It's not rocket science, if you have great ingredients and you have to blend them together and they do a great job."
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