PARIS (AFP) Spain open their campaign to clinch the first hat-trick of Davis Cup wins since the United States in 1972 with a home tie against Switzerland on Thursday but neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer will be involved. The absence of the two superstars of world tennis is indicative of the current problems facing the supreme team title in tennis that was first contested in 1900. With the physical demands on players more and more acute, the big names in the game are opting out of defending the colours of their respective countries in the competition. Federer and Nadal apart, this weeks World Group first round ties will be notable for the absences, either through injury or choice, of Juan del Potro of Argentina, Andy Roddick of the United States and Russias Nikolai Davydenko. British No.1 Andy Murray meanwhile has declined selection for his country in the zonal third-tier match against Lithuania. Doubts over the future of the Davis Cup were voiced at the Australian Open in January when it was confirmed that discussions were underway to develop a credible alternative to the gruelling three-day format that would be acceptable to the players. To date, those talks have remained at the exploratory stage but how successful is this years competition will be closely watched by all concerned. In the absence of the injured Nadal, Spain have been able to exploit their strength in depth to align a powerful looking claycourt team of David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro and Marcel Granollers. Without Federer, Switzerland will look to Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli, but they face a daunting challenge as Spain are unbeaten in their last 18 home ties dating back to a loss to Brazil in 1999. The United States are the most successful country in Davis Cup history with 32 titles, but they will also start underdogs away to Serbia who will have World No.2 Novak Djokovic as their spearhead backed up by Victor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic. The Americans, who last won the Davis Cup in 2007, have gone for youth and height in the towering shapes of John Isner and Sam Querrey with the Bryan twins Mike and Bob again holding down the doubles berth. Isner reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and captured his first ATP title in Auckland, New Zealand, last month. Querrey went 0-2 in his Davis Cup debut against Spain in 2008. US captain Pat McEnroe said he was hopeful of pulling off an upset. We are very excited about John and Sam joining the Bryans to lead our Davis Cup team, he said. Both guys have really stepped up their games and are more than ready to take on the challenge of going on the road to face Serbia. We have had great commitment from our players in the past and expect the same from John and Sam in the years ahead. Highly-fancied France open with a home tie against Germany with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils ably backed by a doubles team of Mikhail Llodra and Julien Benneteau. Germany are without veteran campaigner Tommy Haas. In Moscow, 2006 champions Russia go up against sole Asian representative in the elite group, India, without the injured Nikolay Davydenko but they can turn to the in-form Mikhail Youzhny with backing from Igor Andreev. Argentinas hopes away to Sweden have been badly hit by the withdrawals of Del Potro and David Nalbandian and they will have to deal with world top tenner Robin Soderling who has been in fine form of late. In the three other ties, Croatia and Chile will start strong favourites at home to Ecuador and Israel respectively, while Belgium at home to the Czech Republic looks too close to call. Russia favourite against India Russias Igor Andreev and Somdev Devvarman of India will play the opening rubber in the Davis Cup World Group first round clash between the countries here on Friday. The hosts hopes were setback earlier this week when their top player Nikolay Davydenko, sixth in the world, was ruled out of the clash with a wrist injury. He was replaced by Andreev, who is currently 38th in the ATP rankings. In Fridays second rubber, Mikhail Youzhny will take on Indias Rohan Bopanna. Russian skipper Shamil Tarpishchev said he believed his team would win despite the absence of Davydenko, but warned his players not to under-estimate their lowly-ranked Indian rivals. Indian players play very well on fast courts while we prefer slow surfaces, he said But anyway we should never underestimate our opponents. We should play our tennis, this is the best way to succeed. In Saturdays doubles Indian duo Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati, who have won 14 Grand Slam titles, look clear favourites but Teimuraz Gabashvili and Igor Kunitsyn of Russia provide tough opposition. On Sunday the reversed singles will complete the match schedule.