Davis Cup

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Davis Cup
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2017 Davis Cup
Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.svg
Sport Tennis
Founded 1900; 117 years ago (1900)
Founder Dwight F. Davis
No. of teams 16 (World Group)
130 (2016 total)
Countries ITF member nations
Most recent
 Argentina (1st title)
Most titles  United States (32 titles)
Official website daviscup.com

The Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men's tennis. It is run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is contested annually between teams from competing countries in a knock-out format. It is described by the organisers as the "World Cup of Tennis", and the winners are referred to as the World Champion team.[1] The competition began in 1900 as a challenge between Great Britain and the United States. By 2016, 135 nations entered teams into the competition.[2] 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, including four occasions with New Zealand as Australasia, and finishing as runners-up 19 times). The present champions are Argentina who beat Croatia to win the title for the first time in 2016.

The women's equivalent of the Davis Cup is the Fed Cup. Australia, the Czech Republic, and the United States are the only countries to have held both Davis Cup and Fed Cup titles in the same year. The Hopman Cup, a third competition for mixed teams, carries less prestige, but is a popular curtain raiser to the tennis season.


Davis 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 for about $1,000.[3] They in turn commissioned a classically styled design from William B. Durgin's of Concord, New Hampshire, crafted by the Englishman Rowland Rhodes.[4] Davis went on to become a prominent politician in the United States in the 1920s, serving as US Secretary of War from 1925 to 1929 and as Governor-General of the Philippines from 1929 to 1932.

The first match, between the United States and Britain (competing as the "British Isles"), 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 match in 1902 and Britain won the following four matches. 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 Davis Cup competition was initially 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.

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.

From 1950 to 1967, Australia dominated the competition, winning the Cup 15 times in 18 years.

Beginning in 1972, the format was changed to a knockout tournament, so that the defending champion was required to compete in all rounds, and the Davis Cup was awarded to the tournament champion.

Up until 1973, the Davis Cup had only ever been won by the United States, Great Britain/British Isles, France and Australia/Australasia. Their domination was eventually broken in 1974 when South Africa and India made the final; however the final was scratched and South Africa awarded the cup after India refused to travel to South Africa in protest at South Africa's apartheid policies. The following year saw the first actual final between two "outsider" nations, when Sweden beat Czechoslovakia 3–2, and since then, many other countries have gone on to capture the trophy.

In 1981, the tiered system of competition in use today was created, in which the 16 best national teams compete in the World Group and all other national teams compete in one of four groups in one of three regional zones. In 1989, the tiebreak was introduced into Davis Cup competition, and from 2016 it is used in all five sets.[5]

Davis Cup games have been affected by political protests several times, especially in Sweden:


Monument to the Davis Cup at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France


The 16 best national teams are assigned to the World Group and compete annually for the Davis Cup. Nations which are not in the World Group compete in one of three regional zones (Americas, Asia/Oceania, and Europe/Africa). The competition is spread over four weekends during the year. Each elimination round between competing nations is held in one of the countries, and is played as the best of five matches (4 singles, 1 doubles). The ITF determines the host countries for all possible matchups before each year's tournament.

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.


Level Group(s)
1 World Group

16 countries

2 Group One Americas Zone

6 countries

Group One Europe/Africa Zone

11 countries

Group One Asia/Oceania Zone

7 countries

3 Group Two Americas Zone

8 countries

Group Two Europe/Africa Zone

16 countries

Group Two Asia/Oceania Zone

8 countries

4 Group Three Americas Zone

9 countries

Group Three Europe Zone

15 countries

Group Three Africa Zone

10 countries

Group Three Asia/Oceania Zone

9 countries

5 Group Four Asia/Oceania Zone

11 countries

Note: The total number of nations in Group One is 24. However, the distribution among the three zones may vary each year, according to the number of nations promoted or relegated between Group One and the World Group. The number of nations in the World Group and Group One together is 22 from Euro/Africa Zone, 9 from Americas Zone and 9 from Asia/Oceania Zone.

Ties and rubbers

As in other cup competitions tie is used in the Davis Cup to mean an elimination round. In the Davis Cup, the word rubber means an individual match.

In the annual World Group competition, 16 nations compete in eight first-round ties; the eight winners compete in four quarterfinal ties; the four winners compete in two semifinal ties; and the two winners compete in the final tie.

Each tie consists of five rubbers, which are played in three days (usually on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The winner of the tie is the nation which wins three or more of the five rubbers in the tie. On the first day, the first two rubbers are singles, which are generally played by each nation's two best available singles players. On the second day, the doubles rubber is played. On the third day, the final two 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.

Since 2011, if a nation has a winning 3–1 lead after the first reverse single match and that match has gone to four sets or more, then the remaining reverse single match which is a dead rubber is not played. All five rubbers are played if one nation has a winning 3–0 lead after the doubles match.[8]

Ties are played at a venue chosen by one of the competing countries. The right of choice is given on an alternating basis. Therefore, countries play in the country where the last tie between the teams was not held. In case the two countries have not met since 1970, lots are drawn to determine the host country.[9]

Venues in the World Group must comply with certain minimum standards, including a minimum seating capacity as follows:[10]

  • World Group play-offs: 4,000
  • World Group first round: 4,000
  • World Group quarterfinals: 6,000
  • World Group semifinals: 8,000
  • World Group final: 12,000


Prior to each tie, the captain (non-playing coach appointed by the national association) 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 as best of five sets. Since 2016, all sets use a tiebreak at 6–6 if necessary (formerly, the fifth set usually had no tiebreaker, so play continued until one side won by two games e.g. 10–8). However, if a team has clinched the tie before all five rubbers have been completed, the remaining rubbers may be shortened to best of three sets, with a tiebreak if necessary to decide all three sets.

In Group III and Group IV competitions, each tie consists only of three rubbers, which include two singles and one doubles rubber, which is played in a single day. The rubbers are in the best of three sets format, with a tie breaker if necessary to decide all three sets.

Records and statistics


Country Years won Runners-up
 United States 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)
 Great Britain 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1912, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 2015 (10) 1900, 1902, 1907, 1913, 1919, 1931, 1937, 1978 (8)
 France 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1991, 1996, 2001 (9) 1925, 1926, 1933, 1982, 1999, 2002, 2010, 2014 (8)
 Sweden 1975, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1997, 1998 (7) 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1996 (5)
 Spain 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011 (5) 1965, 1967, 2003, 2012 (4)
 West Germany
1988, 1989, 1993 (3) 1970, 1985 (2)
 Czech Republic
1980, 2012, 2013 (3) 1975, 2009 (2)
 Russia 2002, 2006 (2) 1994, 1995, 2007 (3)
 Italy 1976 (1) 1960, 1961, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1998 (6)
 Argentina 2016 (1) 1981, 2006, 2008, 2011 (4)
 Croatia 2005 (1) 2016 (1)
 Serbia 2010 (1) 2013 (1)
  Switzerland 2014 (1) 1992 (1)
 South Africa 1974 (1) (0)
 Romania (0) 1969, 1971, 1972 (3)
 India (0) 1966, 1974, 1987 (3)
 Belgium (0) 1904, 2015 (2)
 Japan (0) 1921 (1)
 Mexico (0) 1962 (1)
 Chile (0) 1976 (1)
 Slovakia (0) 2005 (1)

Titles by country (since 1972)

Country Titles First Last
 United States 9 1972 2007
 Sweden 7 1975 1998
 Australia 6 1973 2003
 Spain 5 2000 2011
 Czech Republic
3 1980 2013
 France 3 1991 2001
 Germany 3 1988 1993
 Russia 2 2002 2006
 South Africa 1 1974
 Italy 1 1976
 Croatia 1 2005
 Serbia 1 2010
  Switzerland 1 2014
 Great Britain 1 2015
 Argentina 1 2016

Years in World Group

Most wins in World Group

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