2020 Davis Cup: What to know about the ‘World Cup of tennis’

The 2020 Davis Cup begins on March 6 as qualifiers heat up with a chance for 12 teams to punch their ticket to the finals in Madrid, which will be held in late November. Known as the “World Cup of tennis,” the Davis cup is the premier men’s international team competition in the sport, held annually to crown a world champion.

This year the Davis Cup has a revamped format, introducing new “World Groups,” giving more nations from around the world the ability to compete against a wider variety of opponents. Countries get placed in one of three groups based on their order of finish from the previous year, thus no longer using the Davis Cup Nations Ranking to determine which group a country will play in. Nations are promoted or relegated from their group depending on performance, allowing all countries to play on the biggest stage the sport has to offer.

The Davis Cup has a rich history. Named for American Dwight Davis, the tournament initially started as a match play event between the United States and Great Britain in 1900. By 1905, it expanded to include Belgium, France, Austria, and a combined Australia/New Zealand. Then known as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge, the competition acted as a challenge cup, where nations competed for the right to face the champion from the previous year.

In 1972 The Davis Cup became a knockout-style competition, with all teams required to compete in each round of the tournament. The tiered system that serves as the building block for today’s format was introduced in 1981; The 16 highest-ranking nations competed in the World Group for a chance to win the Davis Cup, while all other national teams competed in one of three regional zones. The finals field remained 16 teams until 2018 when it expanded to 18 teams.

In the format for 2020, the finals will feature the four semi-finalists from 2019 (Canada, Great Britain, Russia, & Spain), two wild card teams chosen by the International Tennis Federation (Serbia & France), and 12 qualifying teams. Qualifying ties will be best-of-five matches (or rubbers as they are known), while the finals will be best-of-three matches – all matches will be best-of-three sets, including tiebreakers.

During this weekend’s qualifiers, 24 nations will compete for the remaining 12 spots. The field consists of 12 seeded countries (based on the 2019 Davis Cup order of finish) and 12 unseeded nations who won their Group I tie in 2019, earning the right to compete for their spot in the 2020 finals. Each tie consists of two singles matches on day one, followed by a doubles match and two reverse singles matches on day two; Matchups were drawn back in November (seeded team):

India at Croatia (1)
Belgium (2) at Hungary
Argentina (3) at Columbia
Uzbekistan at USA (4)
Brazil at Australia (5)
Korea, Rep. at Italy (6)
Belarus at Germany (7)
Netherlands at Kazakhstan (8)
Czech Republic (9) at Slovakia
Uruguay at Austria (10)
Ecuador at Japan (11)
Chile at Sweden (12)

Spain is the defending champion and favorite, having defeated Canada for the title in 2019. Spain has six Davis Cup victories, third-most behind the United States with nine, and Sweden with seven.

Having dominated the Davis Cup in the early to mid-1900s, team USA’s last Davis Cup victory came in 2007, as a 6-seed. Touting players such as Andy Rodick, James Blake, and the Bryan brothers, the United States overcame two higher seeds (including 1-seed Russia in the finals) to claim the nation’s first Davis Cup since 1995.

With many of the world’s top players in action this weekend, the Davis Cup is can’t-miss excitement. You can catch all the action from USA’s tie with Uzbekistan streaming on CBS.

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