What is Fed Cup? While tennis normally pits one player against another, Fed Cup brings a team dynamic – one country facing another. How does it work? How do we integrate an individual sport into a team event?
It is the most important international female competition, all sports combined. Administered by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) 107 countries participated in 2019, 46 of which are in action this weekend, consisting of 117 players. This team vs. team competition occurs annually over the course of three weekends and has a rich 56-year history.
Fed Cup also has a unique atmosphere. In contrast to the usual rules of etiquette at traditional tournaments such as Wimbledon, Fed Cup is known for its festive and patriotic atmosphere. Participants get the chance to represent their country and fans are invited to encourage their players loud and proud. It’s a real party atmosphere!
A tie takes place over the course of two days and is played as a best of five matches – the first country to win three matches wins the tie! Two singles matches are played on the Saturday. As most teams generally consist of two singles players, the opponents from day one are inversed on day the Sunday. The tie ends with a doubles match which tends to be highpoint of the event as it is usually serves at the deciding match.
The host nation is determined based on the history of both countries in question. Therefore, the team that played on the road during the last tie will be the host for the next tie. If the teams have never played each other or if they previously played in a neutral territory, the host nation will be determined at random.
World Group I: This is the elite group composed of the best eight countries in the world. These teams compete for the Fed Cup trophy each year. In the first round, the four highest ranked nations take on the other four countries. The winners move on to the semi-finals, then the final in a single elimination format. In short, World Group I is where the action is at.
World Group II: This is the intermediate level which opposes countries ranked from 9th to 16th in the Red Cup rankings. In the first round, the four highest ranked nations face off against the other four countries.
Zonal Groups: Outside of World Group I and World Group II, countries are spread across different zones: Americas, Asia-Oceania and Europe/Africa. Each zone has two sub-divisions, with Group I being the better and Group II being lower, with the exception of the Europe/Africa zone which also has a Group III. The competition consists of round robin tournaments followed by play-offs to determine the countries that get promoted and those that get relegated. Each country hopes to move up zones each year.
World Group I play-offs: The four countries that lost their World Group I first round matches face the four winning nations from World Group II. These eight teams fight for a spot in the World Group I. It is an opportunity for the World Group II winners to move up a level, while the World Group I losers have to protect their spot among the world’s elite.
World Group II play-offs: Just as the World Group I losing nations have to defend their spots, so do the four losing nations from World Group II as they take on the winners from each Group I Zone. The winners get promoted to World Group II for the following year, while the losers will be relegated to Group I of their respective zones.
— Fed Cup (@FedCup) April 12, 2018
The United States, the defending champions, have won the most Fed Cup titles (18). In second is the Czech Republic (11), followed by Australia (7).
Chris Evert is the player who has been on the most winning teams, having led the United States to victory in eight of nine finals in which she took part. Billie Jean King is in second place with seven trophies.
The first Fed Cup trophy was awarded in 1963 when the United States defeated Australia by a score of 2-1.
Canada’s best performance at Fed Cup came in 1988 when they reached the semi-finals. The nation also reach the quarter-finals in 1964, 1967 and 1987.
Follow along as Canada gets ready to take on the Netherlands this February 9 and 10.
*Feature photo: Pascal Ratthé