Denis Shapovalov pumps his fist after winning a pointPhoto: AP/Seth Wenig
Photo: AP/Seth Wenig

FAQ: What are the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup?

Tennis is often thought of as an individual sport, but there are times when players come together to represent their country as a team.

The Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup are annual highlights on the calendar so here’s what you need to know about them.

What are the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup tournaments?

Davis Cup is the largest annual international team competition in sport. There were 142 nations entered in 2020-21. Similarly, the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly known as Fed Cup) is the world’s largest annual international women’s team tournament, with 116 nations entered in 2020-21.

Davis Cup was created when members of the 1900 Harvard University tennis team wanted to arrange a match between USA and Great Britain. One of the American players, Dwight Davis, designed the tournament format and purchased the tournament’s trophy with his own money. His name would become synonymous with the tournament.

The idea of the Fed Cup was brought up in 1919 but did not become a reality until 1963 when it was launched as a way to celebrate the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) 50th anniversary. Back then it was the Federation Cup before the name was shortened in 1995.

In September 2020, the Fed Cup was renamed after tennis legend, Billie Jean King, who has been a proponent for equality in the sport throughout her career. The tournament bearing her name has the biggest annual prize fund in women’s team sports, matching that awarded in Davis Cup.

What are the formats for Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup?

Davis Cup took on a new format in 2019 which saw the top 18 teams in the world compete in the Davis Cup Finals in  late autumn. That format will be slightly adjusted for 2022 when just 16 teams will be part of the Davis Cup Finals. Those teams will automatically include the two finalists from 2021 while the teams that finish third to 18th will compete in the 2022 Qualifiers to face off against teams that earned promotion from World Group I.

Those Qualifiers take place during the spring. Each tie consists of two singles matches on day one, followed by a doubles match and two reverse singles matches on day two. The term “rubbers” is used for matches played within a tie.  A team has to win three rubbers to win the tie. These rubbers are all best-of-three sets. A team can consist of up to five players, though there is no obligation for all team members to compete in a rubber. A player can compete in a maximum of two singles matches.

For the 2021 Finals, the 18 teams are drawn into six groups of three for a round robin. The six teams that win their group as well as the two second-place teams with the best records (based on percentage of sets won) advance to the quarterfinals. The winners there move onto the semifinals with those victors facing off for the trophy. Each tie held during the Finals consists of two singles matches and one doubles match, which are again best-of-three sets.

Billie Jean King Cup introduced a new tournament format for 2020 that is somewhat similar to the new-look Davis Cup. Dubbed the “World Cup of Tennis”, the six-day Billie Jean King Cup Finals will have 12 teams competing for the title: the two finalists from the previous year, the host nation, eight teams which won their best-of-five match ties at Qualifiers held in February 2020, and one wildcard team. The 12 teams will be divided into four groups of three for a round robin, with the top team in each group advancing to the semifinals.

Who is on Canada’s Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup rosters?

For the Davis Cup Finals that will take place November 25 to December 5, 2021, Canada will be represented by Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil, Brayden Schnur and Peter Polansky. Canada was automatically qualified for the Finals by virtue of being the runners-up in 2019, the last time the Finals were held because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada’s roster for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals taking place November 1-6, 2021 includes Rebecca Marino, Carol Zhao, Francoise Abanda and Gabriela Dabrowski. Canada had initially missed out on qualifying for the Finals, but when the tournament was shifted from Budapest to Prague in August, Canada replaced former host Hungary, having been the highest-ranked winning nation from the Play-offs that took place in April.

The team that defeated Serbia 4-0 in their Play-offs tie included Marino and Zhao, but also Leylah Fernandez, who decided not to compete in the Finals at the end of a very long season that included her Olympic debut and an appearance in the final of the US Open.

When are the next Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup matchups?

Team Canada’s run to the final in 2019 automatically booked them a spot in the next Davis Cup Finals, now set to take place starting November 25, 2021. Canada will be in Group B with Kazakhstan and Sweden, which will play their round robin in Madrid, Spain, as will Group A. There will also be round robins in Innsbruck, Austria (Groups C and F) and Turin, Italy (Groups D and E). Madrid will also play host to the semifinals and final.

Team Canada will be in Group A of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals with reigning champion France and the Russian Tennis Federation when that tournament begins in Prague, Czech Republic on November 1.

Has Canada ever won a Davis Cup or Billie Jean King Cup title?

Team Canada’s best finish in Davis Cup was in 2019, when they were the runners-up to Spain. They are currently ranked sixth in the world.

Team Canada’s best finish in Fed Cup was in 1988 where they reached the semifinals. They are currently ranked 10th in the world.