Fed Cup has been played in its current form since 2005, with the top 16 nations in the world split into World Group and World Group II, and the remaining countries competing across regional zonal groups. The eight nations in the World Group play for the prestigious Fed Cup title each year, while the other countries seek to earn promotion to the next highest tier for the following season. The four World Group first-round losers and World Group II first-round winners compete for the right to play in the World Group the next year.
A Fed Cup tie at the World Group and World Group II levels is contested over two days, Saturday and Sunday. Day one features two singles matches, with each nation’s No. 1 player facing off against the other nation’s No. 2 player. On Sunday, the two reverse singles matches take centre stage (No. 1 vs. No 1 and No. 2 vs. No. 2) and are followed by the decisive doubles match. All matches are played best two-of-three sets. The Fed Cup champion will win three ties in a year (first round, semifinals, and final).
The host nation of a tie is decided based on previous history. If a nation had home advantage last time then it will be away next time, and vice versa. If the countries have never previously met, do not have any recent history past 1995, or they last faced each other at a neutral venue, then the choice of ground is decided by lot (essentially a coin flip).
Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, with 98 nations competing in 2018. The idea for a women’s team competition has roots back in 1919, but it wasn’t officially launched until 1963, in the International Tennis Federation’s 50th anniversary year.
At its inception, Fed Cup was contested over a one-week period, played in a different venue each year. The inaugural event was held at Queen’s Club in London, with the USA – featuring Billie Jean King – becoming the first Fed Cup champions.
The format has changed several times throughout the years. By 1994, the competition had expanded to 73 nations and this increased participation saw the creation of regional qualifying competitions. In 1995, the home-and-away format for ties, as seen in Davis Cup competition, made its Fed Cup debut. Presently, Fed Cup has been played under the same set-up since 2005 with an eight-nation World Group and World Group II.
Canada has been a Fed Cup regular since the event’s inaugural year in 1963. The team reached the semifinals in 1988 and the quarter-finals in 1964, 1967, and 1987. Thanks to wins over Serbia and Slovakia in 2014, Canada was promoted to the highest level of Fed Cup play for 2015 where it competed in the World Group for the first time ever. Recently, a win over Ukraine in the World Group II play-offs this April means Canada will remain in the second tier of Fed Cup play for 2019.