By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - There will be an unfamiliar look about Spain when they begin the defense of the Davis Cup against Kazakhstan on Friday with a new captain and without several regulars, most notably Rafa Nadal.
Former world number two Alex Corretja, who took over from Albert Costa shortly after Spain beat Argentina in December's final, will have to make do without the team's talisman in Oviedo while the likes of world number five David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez are also missing.
Nicolas Almagro played no part in Spain's four ties last year but will shoulder much of the singles burden for Corretja, who will also call upon Marcel Granollers, veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero and doubles specialist Marc Lopez for a tie five-times champions Spain should still win comfortably.
"It's not something I'm thinking about at the moment because I have the duty to build a team with the four players that we think are best suited," Corretja, who may have to get used to doing without 10-times grand slam champion Nadal, told the Davis Cup website (www.daviccup.com) about making his debut with virtually a 'B team'.
"I have the luck of having four big players that are very keen to play and that's what matters the most. There are others that could be here but are not, but I also thank them for their availability.
"Spanish tennis is not only four players, there are a lot more and I think that it's extremely important to have different options to build a team depending on different conditions, surfaces and rivals."
While Nadal's participation in this year's competition is unlikely as he tries to ease his schedule, there are plenty of top names in action as the World Group begins this weekend.
Roger Federer will line up for Switzerland at home against the United States while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is in the French side up against Canada in Vancouver.
Tomas Berdych will spearhead the Czech Republic's challenge as they begin against Italy in Ostrava.
Federer's appearance so early in the competition is a rarity, but a clash with the United States brings back memories for the 16-times major champion, who 11 years ago won all three rubbers in a victory over the Americans in Basel.
"I think it was my first emotional outburst on a tennis court because I was so exhausted on Sunday after winning singles, doubles and singles," the 30-year-old Federer, who has never won the Davis Cup, said in the build-up to the tie which will not feature former U.S. number one Andy Roddick.
"It was a start of great things for me and I'm happy playing America again."
In other first round ties, Japan make their first World Group appearance for 27 years against Croatia in Hyogo with Kei Nishikori hoping to maintain his impressive start to the season after reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Serbia, the 2010 champions, will not have world number one Novak Djokovic in their ranks as he recovers from his Australian Open triumph but his absence should make no difference against a weak Sweden team missing Robin Soderling.
Last year's runners-up Argentina face Germany in Bamberg while Austria are at home to Russia.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Peter Rutherford)