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A brief history of Davis Cup as India takes on Finland

Also known as the 'World Cup of Tennis' - the Davis Cup is a premier event in men's tennis and attracts esteemed competition from the world's bests.

The Indian Davis Cup team ahead of their tie against Finland at Helsinki

The Indian Davis Cup team ahead of their tie against Finland at Helsinki (Source: Twitter/ AITA)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 17 Sep 2021 5:00 AM GMT

It's that time of the year again when the nationalistic spirit is at an all-time high in the Indian men's tennis camp as they get ready to compete in the Davis Cup World Group Qualifier tie. Drawn against a better-ranked Finland team this time for the first-round clash, the Davis Cup contingent from India will be spearheaded by Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Rohan Bopanna, among others.

Scheduled to contest their tie in a two-day affair at Espoo Metro Areena in Finland, the prestigious Indian Davis Cup team has to measure their chances with extreme wariness as the Finland team, with the 'Flying Finn' - Emil Ruusuvuori onboard alongside veterans like Henri Kontinen in the mix, will be a formidable side to tame. With a low-bounce court ready to act as their advantage, the Indian side - specifically, Prajnesh and Ramkumar, will have a lot of pressure to win as a victory will secure them a place in next year's Davis Cup Qualifiers as well, while a loss will have them compete in the play-offs of Group I.

How did it all start - a brief history of the Davis Cup

The 1995 US team with the Davis Cup

Stretching back to the start of the 20th century, in 1900, four members of the tennis team at Harvard University fancied challenging Great Britain in a tennis competition. On the American side from Harvard, there was a certain gentleman called Dwight F. Davis chalked out a particular plan for the contest and even ordered a grand $1000 trophy from Shreve, Crump & Low to start off the proceedings.

Initially known as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge, it soon came to be known as the Davis Cup after the trophy which Dwight F. Davis had bought with his own money and which was crafted immaculately by Rowland Rhodes based on the design of William Durgin. Falling under the aegis of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Davis Cup is one of the oldest existing tennis competitions and also, the world's largest annual team tournament with 142 countries signing up for it, as of 2020.

At the beginning, the Davis Cup was the hunting ground for USA, Great Britain and Australasia until France broke this routine in 1927, before going on to win six times led by the Four Musketeers - Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, Jacques Brugnon, Rene Lacoste. However, the trio of dominating nations took back control once more and it was only after 1970 did other nations begin succeeding here.

The beginning of the World Group

In 1981, the concept of creating a 16-nation World Group was arrived at. The rest of the nations were divided into a variety of Zones and these nations were allowed to avail promotions and relegations, based on performance and certain criteria, creating a more channelised way of competition. Soon, NEC came onboard to be the title sponsor of the grand event that allowed for prize money to be given now. After NEC, BNP Paribas took over the reins of sponsorship in 2002 before their term drew to an end in 2019.

The 2021 Davis Cup schedule (Source: Davis Cup website)

In fact, 2019 saw a revamp of the Davis Cup format take place once more and it is this format that is being currently used to declare the champion. Known as the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals now, the first final in this new format was played at the La Caja Magica in Madrid where top 18 nations (earlier, the number was 16) competed for the crown. Ultimately, in a Spain vs Canada tie in the finals, it was the Rafael Nadal led Spanish side that won the title, 2-0.

Lastly, the ties in the Davis Cup World Group I Qualifiers stages will feature five matches played over two days (like the one India and Finland are supposed to play). The first day will have two singles, followed by a doubles on the second day. There is the provision for two reverse singles to be played on the second day as well. All matches will be contested in a best of three tiebreak sets format.

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