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Davis Cup: Men's Tennis Team Event

The premier international team event for men’s tennis is the Davis Cup. It is organized by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is competed by teams from different countries in a knock-out format yearly. It was also known as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge but was popularly known as the Davis Cup. The Women’s editions of the Davis Cup is the Billie Jean King Cup(formerly the Fed Cup).

History of the Davis Cup

The Davis Cup championship started in 1900 from a challenge between Great Britain and the United States. Four members of Harvard University challenged the British to a tennis match. After their respective tennis teams agreed, Dwight F. Davis, a member of the Harvard players, created a tournament format and even ordered a sterling silver trophy with his own money, which cost about $1000.

The initial match between the United States and Britain was held in Boston, Massachusetts at the Longwood Cricket Club. The Americans won three matches which surprised the British. The following year, both the Americans and British did not compete, but in 1902 the Americans won and the next four matches after that were won by the British. The tournament got bigger by 1905 allowing competitors from Belgium, Austria, Australasia (New Zealand and Australia combined) and France.

From 1950 until 1967, Australia dominated the tournament, winning 15 times for the entire 18 years. By 1974, South Africa and India joined the Davis Cup and Sweden and Czechoslovakia the following year.

Some of the most successful countries throughout the entire Davis Cup are United States and Australia.

aftermarth of a Davis Cup match aftermath of a Davis Cup match

Format Changes

By 2013, 130 countries had joined the competition. The top 16 national teams (the World Group) competed yearly for the Davis Cup in a competition held over four weekends during the year. The World Group played a four-round elimination tournament. Teams that lost the first-round matches were sent to the World Group Playoffs round. Teams not in the World Group were designated into Zone Groups, divided into three regions – America, Asia/Oceania and Europe/Africa. In each region, there were three to four divisions, Group I being the highest and IV being the lowest. Group III and IV were week-long events played in one location. Groups were separated into round-robin pools with play-offs then deciding promotion and relegation. A similar format was used for each Group though it depended on the number of teams joining.

From 2019 onwards, the Davis Cup tournament for the World Group (called the Davis Cup Finals) changed to an 18-team event held in November each year. The first edition of the new event was held in Madrid in November 2019, and was won by Spain. The new format features two singles matches and one doubles match, instead of the best-of-5 series, with the matches changing from best of 5 sets to best of 3. 

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