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With nations entering in , the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is the largest annual international team competition in sport. Uniquely structured in terms of tennis competitions, a Davis Cup tie takes place over three days, with two singles rubbers held on the first day Friday , followed by a doubles rubber on the second day Saturday before reverse singles on the third day Sunday — all played over the best of five sets.
The first nation to score three points wins. The top 16 nations in the world play in a knockout format over four weekends throughout the season, with eight nations progressing to the quarter-finals, four nations to the semi-finals and finally just two nations to the final, which is held during the last week of the long tennis season, bringing the year to a dramatic and fitting climax.
The final 18 nations will compete at a week-long, season-ending tournament at a neutral site. The world's top 24 nations will compete in a home-or-away qualifying round in February, with the 12 winning teams advancing to the final tournament.
They will be joined by the four semifinalists from the previous year along with two wildcard teams this means France, Croatia, the USA and Spain are all guaranteed to be involved in the final tournament in The 18 teams who qualify for the finals will be placed into six groups of three teams to compete in round-robin play.
The six group winners, along with the two teams with the best records through round-robin play, advance to the quarterfinals. The format of ties has also changed.
At the finals, the ties will consist of three rubbers, two singles and a doubles match - all played as best-of-three set matches instead of best-of-five sets.
Starting off as a competition between the USA and Great Britain all the way back in , the Davis Cup has transformed into the biggest annual international team competition in global sport, with a total of nations taking part in the edition.
The Davis Cup concept was first established by four members of the Harvard University tennis team, who were eager to create a match between the USA and Great Britain, who were then playing under the name of the British Isles.
The two national organisations agreed and the idea was brought to reality, with one of the four players from Harvard - Dwight Davis - designing the format and trophy, buying the silverware with his own money.
France, Austria, Belgium and Australasia comprised of players from Australia and New Zealand joined the Davis Cup in as the competition expanded for the first time, and by , there will over 20 nations competing all over the world.
USA, Great Britain and Australasia maintained a stranglehold on the Davis Cup in the early years, but their period of dominance was halted by France in , who went on to win the title for the next six consecutive years - an achievement only bettered by USA from It was in - a year after the start of the Open Era in tennis - that the Davis Cup underwent a significant change of format and major expansion.
The Challenge Round was scrapped, which meant that the reigning champion would have to play in every round, instead of gaining a bye straight into the final the following year, while 50 nations were now competing in the Davis Cup as the competition swiftly grew in popularity around the world, with Czechoslovakia joining the first-time winners honours roll in The current World Group format of 16 teams was introduced into the Davis Cup in , with the remaining teams split into regional Zone Groups with promotion and relegation from each zone brought into play.
This was also the first year that the Davis Cup gained sponsorship, agreeing to a commercial partnership with NEC, which allowed prize money to be awarded for the first time - giving further incentive for top players to take part.
Sweden and Germany would join the likes of Australia, USA and France as dominant forces and combine for seven of the next 15 Davis Cups, while Spain would emerge as a powerhouse of the 00s, winning the title five times and finishing runner-up on two more occasions.
Great Britain and France also returned to the winners circle after long droughts. Italian legend Nicola Pietrangeli holds the record for the most wins in both singles and doubles, playing rubbers for Italy in a total of 66 ties.
He has a win-loss record of , winning 78 singles matches and 42 doubles encounters, while he also forms half of the most successful Davis Cup doubles partnership with Orlando Sirola, with the pair winning 34 of their 42 doubles rubbers for Italy.
Tut Bartzen of the USA boasts the leading unbeaten Davis Cup record of in singles, achieved between and , while Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis holds the record for most consecutive wins with Longest rubber by duration: Streams About to Start