Holders Spain raced into a 2-0 lead over Austria in the opening singles rubbers when Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer outplayed Juergen Melzer and Andreas Haider-Maurer respectively in their Davis Cup quarter-final.
As the four World Group ties got underway, including France taking on United States, Czech Republic versus Serbia and Argentina against Croatia, Almagro thumped Melzer 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 and Ferrer thrashed Haider-Maurer 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
Those performances put the favourites in command on the clay in blustery Marina d'Or on the Spanish coast.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, leading the French charge against the Americans, carved out a 1-0 lead for the 2010 finalists when he beat teenager Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
But John Isner levelled the best-of-five tie with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 dismissal of Gilles Simon in glamorous Monte Carlo.
The Czechs took an early lead in Prague in their tie against 2010 winners Serbia - without world number one Novak Djokovic - when Tomas Berdych hammered Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
Radek Stepanek and Janko Tipsarevic then traded blows for more than five hours before Serbian Tipsarevic saved two match points to level at 7-7 in the final set and went on to clinch a nail-biting 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 success.
The match ended in controversy as Stepanek refused to shake hands with Tipsarevic, who had to be restrained by team-mates and later accused the Czech of making an obscene gesture.
There was a classic Davis Cup party atmosphere at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires for David Nalbandian's opening singles against Marin Cilic, as Argentina seeks to make up for the disappointment of losing to Spain in the 2011 final.
But Cilic stayed focused amid the drumming and raucous chanting in the 14,000 capacity arena to edge the former world number three 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 in a five-hour thriller.
World number 10 Juan Martin del Potro shrugged off a bout of nausea to cruise past Ivo Karlovic 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 and pull Argentina level 1-1.
Spain, who has won its last 22 home Davis Cup ties, appeared far too strong for underdogs Austria despite the absence of Rafael Nadal and the doubles pair in the 2011 final of Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez.
French Open champion Nadal has opted not to play in the competition in an Olympic year, citing the packed calendar, and is carrying a knee injury aggravated last week in Miami.
Verdasco and Lopez have been replaced after disappointing doubles performances in last year's victorious campaign.
Almagro and Ferrer ensured Nadal will not be missed too much, as they put Spain on the verge of a September semi-final against France or the US.
ReutersTags: tennis, sport, spain First posted April 07, 2012 08:30:03