With Andy Roddick retired,Mardy Fish unavailable and Spain apparently unbeatable at home on clay,the United States look distant second favourites when the two nations clash in the Davis Cup semi-final in Gijon starting on Friday. Then again,few fancied the Americans chances of beating a Switzerland team that included Roger Federer in round one and seeing off France in the quarter-finals,led by the big-serving John Isner.
Argentina will start as favourites in their semi-final against the Czech Republic in Buenos Aires with Juan Martin del Potro and Juan Monaco shouldering their nations hopes of winning the title for the first time.
The Czechs,however,boast in-form Tomas Berdych in their ranks and will be looking to repeat their victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires during the 1980 campaign which culminated in them claiming the huge trophy for the only time.
U.S. captain Jim Couriers tenacity seems to have rubbed off on his side this year and while Spain are overwhelming favourites as they chase a fourth title in five years,the Americans still have a few reasons for optimism.
When nations lose their top players captains hope that one of the underlings will step up to the plate and,for Spain and the United States,their wishes have been granted. Spain have had to make do without the injured Rafa Nadal this season but world number five David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro underlined the Iberian nations depth as they cruised past Kazakhstan and Austria to reach the semi-finals.
Likewise,Isner has assumed the leaders role for Couriers side in the absence of former stalwart Roddick. World number 10 Isner has a 4-0 record in Davis Cup singles this season,taking the scalps of Federer on clay in Fribourg and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga,also on the dirt,to close out the quarter-final in Monte Carlo.
Ferrer will open the tie against Sam Querrey on Friday defending a 14-0 singles record in Davis Cup on clay courts so Isner will almost certainly be playing catch-up by the time he takes to the Parque Hermanos Castro court against Almagro.