- Associated Press - Thursday, September 13, 2012

GIJON, SPAIN (AP) - If there were ever a time the U.S. Davis Cup team could envision beating Spain, it had to be now with Rafael Nadal absent.

Sore knees have sidelined Nadal, giving confidence to an American team that already knocked off Switzerland and France en route to the semifinals. However, it faces the task of its first win here in 40 years and ending Spain’s 13-year home unbeaten run on clay.

“Rafa’s absence is obviously missed for them, but it’s not as devastating considering how deep of a team they are,” said U.S. captain Jim Courier. “Spain is the favorite. The preparation is the same for us, no different. It’s all about execution.”

The Americans will play without Andy Roddick, who retired after the U.S. Open.

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,” Isner said. “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.

The United States has lost two straight series to defending champion Spain, which is unbeaten in 25 straight series on clay, including a record 23 consecutive at home.

“We’ll take our chances,” Courier said.

Spain has won three of the past four Davis Cups to become the dominant force in the competition, with victories over the U.S. in the 2004 and 2000 finals. The Americans have won the trophy a record 32 times.

The fifth-ranked Ferrer, coming off a U.S. Open semifinal appearance, has had less time to recover but insists he’ll be ready for Querrey in their first meeting on clay. Querrey returns to the team for the first time in more than two years, back in Spain where he made his debut in 2008.

“I just hope to play well and win the point, so that Nicolas can have less pressure when he gets on court,” Ferrer said.

Mike and Bob Bryan are overwhelming favorites to take Saturday’s doubles point after winning the U.S. Open title last week, their Open-era record 12th Grand Slam triumph. They’re 10-0 on clay.

Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez are 1-1 in their first season together. The pair made it through to the U.S. Open semifinals before Lopez had to retire in the first set because of a left calf injury.

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