The elastic-plastic contact between a deformable sphere and a rigid flat during presliding is studied experimentally. Measurements of friction force and contact area are done in real time along with an accurate identification of the instant of sliding inception. The static friction force and relative tangential displacement are investigated over a wide range of normal preloads for several sphere materials and diameters. Different behavior of the static friction is observed in the elastic and in the elastic-plastic regimes of sphere deformation. It is found that at low normal loads, the static friction coefficient depends on the normal load in breach of the classical laws of friction. The presliding displacement is found to be less than 5% of the contact diameter, and the interface mean shear stress at sliding inception is found to be slightly below the shear strength of the sphere material. Good correlation is found between the present experimental results and a recent theoretical model in the elastic-plastic regime of deformation.