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Fed Cup History

Fed Cup was launched in 1963 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). It’s now the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, with 95 nations taking part in 2014.


Concept

Mrs Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman


Mrs Wightman (USA)

The idea for Fed Cup can be traced back to 1919, when Mrs Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman came up with the concept for a women's team competition.

When this was rejected, she instead presented a trophy in 1923 for an annual contest between USA and Great Britain, who were at that time the strongest tennis-playing nations. Mrs Nell Hopman, wife of the legendary Australian Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman, later took up Wightman's original idea.

In 1962, when a British resident of USA, Mary Hardwick Hare, presented a dossier proving that support for such an event was overwhelming, the ITF was persuaded to organise a team championship played over one week in a different venue each year. It had taken 40 years for Wightman’s concept of a women’s version of Davis Cup to become a reality.

The ITF, the world governing body of tennis, launched the Federation Cup in 1963 to celebrate the organisation’s 50th anniversary. Open to all nations, not just USA and Great Britain, the much awaited competition became a resounding success.


Early years

USA - 1963

USA - 1963 Champions

Played over one week in a different venue each year, the competition attracted teams from 16 countries and was supported by the top players right from the start.

The inaugural event was held at Queen’s Club, London, and the first final between Australia and USA set the tone with Grand Slam champions Darlene Hard, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court and Lesley Turner all proudly representing their country on court.

The Americans emerged champions and have since put their mark on the competition, collecting a record 17 titles over the years. The Australians are second on the all-time list with seven wins.


Competition expands

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia - 1985 Champions

That first Federation Cup had attracted entries from 16 nations, a respectable number considering there was no prize money and teams had to meet their own expenses.

Sponsorship from the likes of Colgate Group and NEC later enabled this number to expand dramatically, while the support of today’s title sponsor BNP Paribas continues to promote growth for Fed Cup.

By 1994, 73 nations competed and the host nation of a Federation Cup week was now required to build a special tennis complex, giving rise to what became known as the Federation Cup Legacy.

In addition to the kudos of showcasing the premier team competition in women’s tennis, nations viewed their involvement as providing an unprecedented opportunity for their national game to develop.


Format

Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)

Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)

The rise in entries led to the creation of regional qualifying competitions in 1992 and, subsequently in 1995, Federation Cup adopted a new format and shortened its name to Fed Cup.

Having seen the great success that the home-and-away format had achieved in Davis Cup, the format for Fed Cup was changed in 1995 so that women, as well as men, could play for their country on home soil.

The format has been adjusted several times since 1995. The current format, introduced in 2005, incorporates an eight-nation World Group and eight-nation World Group II, playing both home-and-away over three weekends throughout the year.

The remaining nations are divided into three regional zones depending on their location. Promotion and relegation are played for each year, while the countries in World Group I compete to be crowned champion.


Fed Cup today

Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Petra Kvitova
(CZE)

Fed Cup celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013 and it is a fitting tribute to this historic competition that the majority of the world's Top 20 players continue to make themselves available to represent their country.

The launch of FedCup.com in January 2003 brought a new generation of fans to the competition, with live scoring, detailed match reports and photos showcasing the action from around the world.

The official website has since expanded and now offers additional features, such as live streaming, radio commentary, videos, audio interviews and social networking. To reach a wider audience, the website also launched in Spanish in January 2009.


Tennis greats

Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

The list of players who have competed in the Fed Cup is impressive to say the least. Many of the game’s all-time greats, along with the current crop of talents, have featured in the competition throughout its history.

Players such as Billie-Jean King, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Virginia Wade, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Conchita Martinez and Martina Hingis all enjoyed successful Fed Cup careers.

More recently, Venus and Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Francesca Schiavone and Petra Kvitova have all lifted the trophy.

These players are all the proof, if any was needed, that Wightman, Hopman, Hare and their allies were right… women's tennis demands a truly international stage for players to represent their country, which is what the Fed Cup continues to provide.

Tennis is a sport that is inherently individualistic, but Fed Cup, like Davis Cup, offers players the chance to play for their country within a tightly knit team. It’s a challenge that most players rise to. The ITF is proud that tennis is one of the few – but growing – number of sports where women play a key role at the highest level.

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