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Known as the ‘World Cup of tennis’, the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas sees well over 100 nations face off each year in the world’s largest annual team competition.
With its nation vs nation format, the Davis Cup offers an annual opportunity to see tennis players, who usually compete as individuals, team up with their compatriots to represent their countries on the world stage. Each country aims to secure a place among the elite 16-nation ‘World Group’, who battle for the iconic Davis Cup trophy.
The competition has been an integral part of the tennis world since 1900, when the USA and Great Britain faced off for what would become known as the Davis Cup, named after American player Dwight Davis who designed the tournament format and funded it with his own money.
Davis Cup has evolved along with the sport itself and is now a global event, with the current format – a 16-nation World Group and regional Zone Groups where countries compete for promotion and relegation – instituted in 1981. Traditionally dominated by Great Britain, Australia and the USA, with France’s famous ‘Four Musketeers’ taking six consecutive trophies in the 1930s, Sweden, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Switzerland have all enjoyed success in the Davis Cup since the 1970s.
The USA still leads the all-time winners’ list with 32 trophies, while Italy’s Nicola Pietrangeli holds the record for most Davis Cup rubbers played (164) and most rubbers won (120). In recent years, legends of the sport Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have all led their countries to victory.
The Davis Cup is now the only event outside the four Grand Slams to feature best-of-five set matches and its unique format both gives prominence to doubles specialists and sees top singles players combine for doubles, now a rare sight: Each Davis Cup tie begins with two singles matches on the Friday, a doubles rubber on the Saturday and two reverse singles rubbers on the Sunday, with the team scoring more of the five available points advancing.
World Group first-round ties are played in the spring, with the quarterfinals and semifinals following after Wimbledon and the US Open respectively and the final bringing the tennis season to a thrilling climax in late November.