Ferrero will open for Nadal-less Spain

Reigning champion Spain will begin defense of round tie against Kazakhstan this week, as the festivities will get underway Friday with a singles rubber between former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero and Mikhail Kukushkin.

The best-of-five affair will be staged on red clay in Oviedo, where the host Spaniards will play without its top-two stars, Australian Open runner-up Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. As a matter of fact, Spain is missing four of its top-five players overall.

Ferrero-Kukushkin will be followed Friday by a bout between Nicolas Almagro and the visitors' Andrey Golubev.

Saturday's doubles will pit a Spanish tandem of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez against a duo of Evgeny Korolev and Yuri Schukin, while Sunday's reverse singles currently pit Almagro against Kukushkin and the former French Open champion Ferrero versus Golubev.

The mighty Spaniards, who have won five of the last 12 Davis Cup championships, are led by first-year captain Alex Corretja, while team Kazakhstan is piloted by Yegor Shaldunov.

Spain, which beat Argentina in last year's Davis Cup final in Seville, and Kazakhstan have never met in Davis Cup play.

The winner here will face the Austria-Russia victor in the quarterfinals in April.