The Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men's tennis. The largest annual international team competition in sports, the Davis Cup is run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is contested between teams of players from competing countries in a knock-out format. The competition began in 1900 as a challenge between the United States and Great Britain. In 2005, 134 nations entered teams into the competition. The most successful countries over the history of the tournament are the United States (winning 32 tournaments and finishing as runners-up 29 times) and Australia (winning 28 times and finishing second 19 times and also winning on four occasions with New Zealand under the name 'Australasia').
The women's equivalent of the Davis Cup is the Fed Cup.
The tournament was conceived in 1899 by four members of the Harvard University tennis team who wished to challenge the British to a tennis competition. Once their respective lawn tennis associations agreed, one of the four Harvard players, Dwight F. Davis, designed a tournament format and ordered an appropriate sterling silver trophy from Shreve, Crump & Low, purchasing it from his own funds. They in turn commissioned a classically-styled design from William B. Durgin's of Concord, New Hampshire, crafted by the Englishman Rowland Rhodes. Davis went on to become a prominent politician in the United States in the 1920s, serving as US Secretary of War from 1925-29 and as Governor-General of the Philippines from 1929-32.
The first match, between the United States and Great Britain was held at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Massachusetts in 1900. The American team, of which Dwight Davis was a part, surprised the British by winning the first three matches. The following year the two countries did not compete but the US won the next match in 1902. By 1905 the tournament expanded to include Belgium, Austria, France, and Australasia, a combined team from Australia and New Zealand that competed together until 1914.
The tournament was initially titled the International Lawn Tennis Challenge although it soon became known as the Davis Cup, after Dwight Davis' trophy.
The United States has won the event the most times (32), followed by Australia (24 [28 including Australasia]), France and Great Britain (9 each)[includes 5 for the British Isles], Sweden (7), and Australasia (4).
Up until 1973, the Davis Cup had only ever been won by the United States, Great Britain, France and Australia/Australasia. This dominance is what led to each of the 4 nations to host a Grand Slam. Their domination was eventually broken in 1974, when South Africa and India qualified for the final. India refused to play in the final that year in protest against the South African government's apartheid policies, thus handing South Africa a walk-over victory. (As of 2008, South Africa has never actually played a single Davis Cup finals match.) The following year saw the first final actually being played, again between two "outsider" nations, with Sweden beating Czechoslovakia 3-2, and since then, several other countries have gone on to capture the trophy.
On the 100th anniversary of the tournament's founding, 129 nations competed for the Davis Cup.
The World Group is the top group and includes the world's best 16 national teams. Teams in the World Group play a four-round elimination tournament. Teams are seeded based on a ranking system released by the ITF, taking into account previous years' results. The defending champion and runner-up are always the top two seeds in the tournament. The losers of the first-round matches are sent to the World Group playoff round, where they play along with winners from Group I of the regional zones. The playoff round winners play in the World Group for the next year's tournament, while the losers play in Group I of their respective regional zone.
Each of the three regional zones is divided into four groups. Groups I and II play elimination rounds, with the losing teams facing relegation to the next-lower group. The teams in Groups III and those in Group IV play a round-robin tournament with promotion and relegation.
When competition began in 1900, the Davis Cup competition was played as a challenge cup. All teams competed against one another for the right to face the previous year's champion in the final round, and the previous year's champion (the "defending champion") advanced directly to the current year's final round.
Beginning in 1923, the world's teams were split into two zones: the "America Zone" and the "Europe Zone". The winners of the two zones met in the Inter-Zonal Zone ("INZ") to decide which national team would challenge the defending champion for the cup.
In 1955, a third zone, the "Eastern Zone", was added. Because there were three zones, the winner of one of the three zones received a bye in the first round of the INZ challenger rounds. In 1966, the "Europe Zone" was split into two zones, "Europe Zone A" and "Europe Zone B", so the winners of the four zones competed in the INZ challenger rounds.
Beginning in 1972, the format was changed from a challenge cup, so that the defending champion was required to compete in all rounds, and the Davis Cup was awarded to the tournament champion.
In 1981, the tiered system of competition was created, which remains in use today, and in which the 16 best national teams compete in the World Group and in which all other national teams compete in one of the four groups in one of the three regional zones.
In the annual World Group competition, 16 nations compete in 8 first-round ties ("rounds"); the 8 winners compete 4 quarter-final-round ties; the 4 winners compete in 2 seimifinal-round ties; and the 2 winners compete in the final round tie.
Each tie consists of 5 rubbers ("matches"), which are played in 3 days (usually on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The winner of the tie is the nation which wins 3 or more of the 5 rubbers in the tie. On the first day, the first 2 rubbers are singles, which are generally played by each nation's 2 best available singles players. On the second day, the doubles rubber is played. On the third day, the final 2 rubbers are typically reverse singles, in which the first-day contestants usually play again, but they swap opponents from the first day's singles rubbers. However, in certain circumstances, the team captain may replace one or two of the players who played the singles on Friday by other players who were nominated for the tie. For example, if the tie has already been decided in favour of one of the teams, it is common for younger or lower-ranked team members to play the remaining dead-rubbers in order for them to gain Davis Cup experience.
Prior to each tie, the captain of each nation nominates a squad of four players and decides who will compete in the tie. On the day before play starts, the order of play for the first day is drawn at random. In the past, teams could substitute final day singles players only in case of injury or illness, verified by a doctor, but current rules permit the captain to designate any player to play the last two singles rubbers, provided that no first day matchup is repeated. There is no restriction on which of the playing team members may play the doubles rubber: the two singles players, two other players (usually doubles specialists) or a combination.
Each rubber is normally played in a best-of-5 set. The first four sets use a tiebreak if necessary, but the fifth set usually has no tiebreaker, so play continues until one side wins by two games (e.g. 10-8). However, if a team has clinched the tie ("round") before all 5 rubbers ("matches") have been completed, the remaining rubbers may be shortened to the best-of-3-sets, with a tie breaker if necessary to decide all three sets.
In Group III and Group IV competition, each tie ("round") consists only of 3 rubbers ("matches"), which include 2 singles and one doubles rubber, which is played in a single day. The rubbers are in the best-of-3-set format, with a tie breaker if necessary to decide all three sets.
|Country||Years Won||Runners Up|
|1900, 1902, 1913, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1990, 1992, 1995, 2007 (32)||1903, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1914, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1964, 1973, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2004 (29)|
|1907*, 1908*, 1909*, 1911*, 1914*, 1919*, 1939, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1977, 1983, 1986, 1999, 2003 (28)||1912*, 1920*, 1922*, 1923, 1924, 1936, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1990, 1993, 2000, 2001 (19)|
|1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1912, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 (9)||1900*, 1902*, 1907, 1913, 1919, 1931, 1937, 1978 (8)|
|1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1991, 1996, 2001 (9)||1925, 1926, 1933, 1982, 1999, 2002 (6)|
|1975, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1997, 1998 (7)||1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1996 (5)|
|1988*, 1989*, 1993 (3)||1970*, 1985* (2)|
|2000, 2004 (2)||1965, 1967, 2003 (3)|
|2002, 2006 (2)||1994, 1995, 2007 (3)|
|1976 (1)||1960, 1961, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1998 (6)|
|1980 (1)||1975 (1)|
|(0)||1966, 1974, 1987 (3)|
|(0)||1969, 1971, 1972 (3)|
|(0)||1981, 2006 (2)|
1Players must now be aged 14 and over