GIJON - Spain's David Ferrer beat Sam Querrey of the United States 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in the opening singles rubber in their Davis Cup semi-final on his home red clay on Friday.
Querrey won the first set but the Spanish world number five held his nerve, neutralising the gangly American's blistering forehand with deft returns to the delight of the rowdy crowd in Gijon.
"It was a hard match, difficult at every moment," said Ferrer, 30, currently Spanish number one in the absence of injured Rafael Nadal.
"Querrey played a very good match but in the end I was up to it."
Ferrer broke Querrey's serve in the first game of the match but then flagged as the American recovered to break him twice and win the set.
"I'm a bit tired, but that's normal. It's almost the end of the year and it's impossible to play perfect tennis," said Ferrer, who had arrived in Gijon this week straight from the US Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
Ferrer, one of the world's finest clay-court players, soon found his rhythm and cruised through the next two sets.
He finally stamped out Querrey's resistance in the fiercely-fought fourth, defending several break points in a series of dazzling rallies.
"David is tough, he makes you work for every point. I could have been a little more agressive on some of the points I should have hit," Querrey said. "I think it was just a few points that were really the difference."
Holders Spain took a 1-0 lead into the second rubber of the tie, with world number 12 Nicolas Almagro facing giant American John Isner and his formidable serve.