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. 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 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.
Davis Cup games have been affected by political protests several times, especially in Sweden:The match between Sweden and Rhodesia 1968 was supposed to be played in Båstad but was moved to Bandol, France, due to protests against the Rhodesian white minority government of Ian Smith.
The Swedish government tried to stop the match between Chile and Sweden in 1975 in Båstad, due to violations of human rights in Chile. The match was played, even while 7,000 people protested against it outside.
After the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, 6,000 people protested against Israel outside the Malmö city Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel in March 2009. The Malmö Municipality politicians were concerned about extremists, and decided due to security reasons to only let a small audience in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Venues in the World Group must comply with certain minimum standards, including a minimum seating capacity as follows: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.Consecutive titles
All-time: 7, United States, 1920–1926
Post-Challenge Round: 2; United States, '78–'79, '81–'82; Sweden, '84–'85, '97–'98; West Germany, '88–'89; Spain, 2008–'09; Czech Republic, '12–'13
Consecutive finals appearances
All-time: 23, Australia, 1946–1968
Post-Challenge Round: 7, Sweden, 1983–1989
Most number of games in a tie
All-time: 327, India 3–2 Australia, 1974 Eastern Zone final
World Group (before tiebreak): 281, Paraguay 3–2 France, 1985 first round
World Group (since tiebreak): 281, Romania 3–2 Ecuador, 2003 World Group play-offs
Most titles as a player;
Roy Emerson; Australia; 8 titles (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967)
Most titles as captain;
Harry Hopman; Australia; 16 titles (1939, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967)
Youngest playerMarco De Rossi; San Marino; 13 years, 319 days (12 May 2011)1
Oldest playerVittorio Pellandra; San Marino; 66 years, 104 days (11 May 2007)
Most years played
25, Leander Paes, India (1990–present)
Most ties played92, Domenico Vicini, San Marino (1993–present)
Most rubbers played164, Nicola Pietrangeli, Italy (1954–1972)
Most rubbers wonTotal: 120, Nicola Pietrangeli, Italy
Singles: 78, Nicola Pietrangeli, Italy
Doubles: 42, Nicola Pietrangeli, Italy and Leander Paes, India
1Players must now be aged 14 and over
For more information, see ITF Rankings
†Change since previous ranking update
ATP Points were distributed from 2009 to 2015Glossary
Only World Group and World Group Play-Off matches and only live matches earn points. Dead rubbers earn no points. If a player does not compete in the singles of one or more rounds he will receive points from the previous round when playing singles at the next tie. This last rule also applies for playing in doubles matches.
1 A player who wins a singles rubber in the first day of the tie is awarded 5 points, whereas a singles rubber win in tie's last day grants 10 points for a total of 15 available points.
2 For the first round only, any player who competes in a live rubber, without a win, receives 10 ranking points for participation.
3 Team bonus awarded to a singles player who wins 7 live matches in a calendar year and his team wins the competition.
4 Performance bonus awarded to a singles player who wins 8 live matches in a calendar year. In this case, no Team bonus is awarded.
5 Team bonus awarded to an unchanged doubles team who wins 4 matches in a calendar year and his team wins the competition.
Last ten tournaments:
After 2015 edition