David Ferrer overcame a sluggish start to beat Sam Querrey 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to give Spain a 1-0 lead over the United States in their Davis Cup semifinal on Friday.
Ferrer, who played in the U.S. Open semifinals 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 for the first time since 2010, failed to maintain his early rhythm and was broken six times by the fifth-ranked Ferrer, who secured a hard-fought victory in 3 hours, 3 minutes after holding off a late charge from his opponent.
Ferrer is leading the five-time champions' bids to reach its fourth final in five years with Rafael Nadal injured.
"It's never easy to adapt from hard court to clay, and with only three to four days even less,'' Ferrer said after improving to 15-0 on clay in the competition.
"I didn't feel too bad but I didn't play perfect tennis either"
"I didn't feel too bad but I didn't play perfect tennis either.''
Nicolas Almagro looks to give Spain a 2-0 advantage when he faces John Isner in the second singles later on Friday.
The last time either team rallied back from losing the first match of their ties was 40 years ago - when the U.S. last beat Spain on home soil.
Querrey had his chances in the fourth set when he bombarded Ferrer with break chances - nine in all - but couldn't convert the necessary winner to help force a fifth set.
"On a couple of them I should have been more aggressive but he played good points,'' Querrey said.
"I feel if I get one of those breaks it could be a different game.''
The doubles point is up for grabs on Saturday when Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez play American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan, who are 3-0 against Spain. Reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.
The winner plays either Argentina or the Czech Republic in November's final.