David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro maintained their near-perfect clay court records in the Davis Cup to give Spain a commanding 2-0 lead Friday over the United States in their semi-final.
Ferrer overcame a sluggish start to put the hosts ahead in the best-of-five series with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over Sam Querrey before Almagro overcame John Isner's constant fight backs in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory.
Almagro overcame 25 aces from Isner, who saved three match points before hitting a forehand long to leave the defending champions one point away from their fourth final in five years.
The US has only rallied back to win from a 0-2 deficit once in 38 ties - in 1937 against Australia. Since the start of World Group play, Spain is 37-0 after winning both the opening singles.
The US has to win Saturday's doubles to stay alive, and will feel confident about their chance with American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan facing Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. The Bryan twins are 4-0 when the US is facing a 2-0 deficit, and are 5-0 against Spain.
Even without Rafael Nadal in the lineup, Ferrer and Almagro showed they could lead Spain as the duo improved to 23-1 on clay in the competition.
While Querrey wasted nine break opportunities in the fourth set of his match to lose, Isner took advantage of his lone one in the fourth set of his match to stretch it to a fifth and deciding frame.
As the light quickly faded, neither player relented on serve. Isner fired another ace to save a 16th break point before three of his 124 errors on the day undid him in the final game.
Isner netted on consecutive points to give Almagro his last match point, which the plucky Spaniard converted when Isner's forehand sailed long.
Ferrer, who played in the US Open semi-finals on Sunday, started well with a break but eventually surrendered his only two service games of the match for the defending champions to trail after the first set.
Querrey, returning to Davis Cup play for the first time since 2010, failed to maintain his early rhythm and was broken six times by the fifth-ranked Ferrer, who (se ability to hold his serve) secured a hard-fought victory by saving nine break points in the fourth set to hold off a late charge from his opponent.
"It's never easy to adapt from hard court to clay, and with only three to four days even less," said Ferrer, who is 15-0 on clay in the competition. "I didn't feel too bad but I didn't play perfect tennis either."
Querrey had taken a set off Nadal in his Davis Cup debut four years ago but couldn't hold his early momentum nor secure a late break at the purpose-built Hermanos Castros Park venue, where the wind gusted off the Bay of Biscay and neither player served particularly well to combine for 12 double faults.
"On a couple of them I should have been more aggressive but he played good points," said the 26th-ranked Querrey, who hit 70 unforced errors while failing to convert 12 break chances. "I feel if I get one of those breaks it could be a different game."
Isner had beaten Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in US away wins at Switzerland and France to come into the Asturian city with a 4-0 record on clay in the competition this season. But the 6-foot-9 American, who is famous for having played the longest match in tennis history, dropped to 0-3 in five-set Davis Cup matches.
Reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.
The winner plays either Argentina or the Czech Republic in November's final.