Spain hope to uphold history and oust US in semis

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 12, 2012
Spain ought to be within one win of a sixth Davis Cup title in this century after the semifinals this weekend. A United States team led by John Isner will have to overcome considerable history to prevent Spain from traveling to Argentina or the Czech Republic in November to defend the cup in the final. The U.S. has won in Spain only once and that was 40 years ago, while Spain's comfortable wins this year over Kazakhstan and Austria extended its 12-year unbeaten streak at home to 23 ties, all on clay. To clay it returns in Gijon, the port city on the Atlantic north coast. With Rafael Nadal still rehabbing the injured left knee which kept him out of the Olympics and U.S. Open, Spain is unchanged and led by David Ferrer, who is undefeated in Davis Cup at home and on clay. Nicolas Almagro is 4-0 in singles cup play this year, and Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez will be the likely doubles team. Ferrer starred in the two most recent ties against the U.S., the semifinal win in 2008 and quarterfinal win in Austin, Texas, last year, and said being favored at home meant nothing. ''In Austin they were the favorite and we won. This time, we hope we will win again,'' he said. The U.S. has surprised this year, with wins in Switzerland and France, both on clay. Isner led the way with defeats of Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Bryan twins, formidable in Davis Cup, should win the doubles, leaving the pressure on Isner to win his singles against Almagro on Friday and Ferrer on Sunday. Isner has a losing record against both. Sam Querrey, who made his cup debut in the 2008 semifinal, was brought in as No. 2 for newcomer Ryan Harrison. ''I know our team is going to go in there believing we can win. We've had two already tough wins on the road so far,'' Isner said. ''We really do believe that we can beat Spain and that we can win the Davis Cup.'' Argentina's hopes of beating the Czechs in Buenos Aires rest on the enduring fitness of former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro came out of his U.S. Open quarterfinal loss with a wrist injury and a wrist specialist's recommendation to rest it for 15 days, ''but I'll do the impossible to play against Czech Republic,'' he tweeted. He practiced on Wednesday and was confirmed in the team, much to its relief. Already without standard-bearer David Nalbandian, who was sidelined by the same strained chest muscle which forced him out of the U.S. Open, Argentina wouldn't have the firepower without also del Potro to stave off Czech stalwarts Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Berdych hasn't lost in Davis Cup for 18 months, and won three points in the 4-1 win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. He's the only survivor in either team from the Czechs' last visit seven years ago, before Argentina moved into Parque Roca and made it a Davis Cup fortress. Argentina has been undefeated in Parque Roca since it opened in 2006. Del Potro was unbeaten there, and Juan Monaco has lost just once in the 14,000-seat stadium. The winner of the tie looks set to host the final, and a chance to possibly avenge recent final defeats to Spain. Argentina, yet to win the Davis Cup, lost the 2008 and 2011 finals, and the Czechs, who haven't won the cup in 32 years, lost the 2009 final. The playoffs to make next year's World Group are Kazakhstan vs. Uzbekistan, Germany vs. Australia, Japan vs. Israel, Belgium vs. Sweden, Canada vs. South Africa, Brazil vs. Russia, Italy vs. Chile, Netherlands vs. Switzerland. The draws are on Thursday.
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