1. The History of the Davis Cup
• Who Has Won the Most Davis Cups?
2. How has the Davis Cup Format Changed for 2019?
• Comparing the Old and the New Davis Cup Formats
3. The 2019 Davis Cup Finals Tournament Bracket
4. The 2019 Davis Cup Finals Venue: Caja Mágica, Madrid
5. Who Has Qualified for the 2019 Davis Cup Finals?
The Davis Cup was created in 1900 to provide a competitive format for countries to pit their finest players head to head. The tournament is now a much more international affair, with 133 nations participating at various stages of the 2019 Davis Cup. This makes it the largest annual international team competition in sport.
Australia competed as Australasia from 1905, when the US and other countries got bored of simply playing each other. Australasia brought together the best players from Australia and New Zealand to win five titles by 1914, after which Australia competed individually. The Davis Cup continued to expand, splitting into an ‘America Zone’ and a ‘Europe Zone’ in 1923. This laid the foundations for the continental structure that remains almost a hundred years later.
Even without any New Zealand players to help, Australia continued to thrive – they even won 15 out of 18 titles from 1950 to 1967. The US, Australia and France shared all titles until 1974, but victories have since been shared around more. The creation of a 16-team World Group in 1981 ensured the world’s best would face each other every year, a format which lasted until the big changes made for this year’s competition.
Who Has Won the Most Davis Cups?
The United States are the most successful team in Davis Cup history with 32 titles, although the nation is currently on its longest ever run without a title. The US haven’t won since 2007, so it is another nation that has ruled in the 21st century. Spain have won all of their 5 titles since the year 2000, with the team victorious in three out of four Davis Cups between 2008 and 2011 – we call that the ‘Rafael Nadal’ effect. The current holders are Croatia, who beat top seed France 3-1 in the final to add to their 2005 title.
How has the Davis Cup Format Changed for 2019?
Not many people could have anticipated that Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique would be behind the biggest revamp of the Davis Cup in decades. Pique pushed for a format change to make the Davis Cup a more entertaining spectacle for viewers. The old structure of the Davis Cup saw months pass between matches among the 16 nations in the World Group, but the new format condenses the action into more of a classic ‘World Cup’ format.
For example, 2018 winners Croatia played their four matches in February, April, September and November. This protracted format also saw many of the world’s top players miss key matches, regarding rest as more important during the rigours of a tough season. With matches now restricted to a qualifying weekend in February and an 18-team event in November, Pique and other tournament directors are hopeful that the world’s elite will feel more able to compete.
Throughout the year, nations compete in regional tournaments to try and progress from Group IV right up to Group I. As teams move up the levels, they can gain access to next year’s qualifiers. The February qualifiers produce 12 of the 18 teams for the finals. Last year’s semi-finalists gain automatic qualification, while two wildcards complete the set.
Comparing the Old and the New Davis Cup Formats
The 2019 Davis Cup Finals Tournament Bracket
Quarter-final 1: Winner Group A vs Best or second-best runner-up
Quarter-final 2: Winner Group D vs Winner Group F
Quarter-final 3: Winner Group E vs Winner Group C
Quarter-final 4: Winner Group B vs Best or second-best runner-up
Semi-final 1: Winner Quarter-final 1 vs Winner quarter-final 2
Semi-final 2: Winner Quarter-final 3 vs Winner quarter-final 4
Final: Winner Semi-final 1 vs Winner semi-final 2
Heading The 2019 Davis Cup Finals Venue: Caja Mágica, Madrid
The change in tournament format also requires a change in the hosting setup. Previously, one of the nations involved would host a head-to-head match-up, with a system in place to ensure that the same team didn’t always play at home. With a move to an end-of-season extravaganza, the Davis Cup needed a host to welcome 18 teams. La Caja Mágica in Madrid has the honour of being the first venue to welcome this new-look Davis Cup.
A multi-purpose venue capable of hosting basketball and handball, tennis fans will know Caja Mágica best as the home of the Madrid Open. While the Madrid Open is renowned as one of the clay-court ATP Masters, the Davis Cup is taking place on a hard court. Since the Madrid Open moved to Caja Mágica in 2009, five different winners have lifted the title: Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Alexander Zverev. Of those, only Nadal is considered a specialist clay-courter. Still, the King of Clay is unlikely to be too bothered by the switch to a hard court.
Who Has Qualified for the 2019 Davis Cup Finals?
Croatia, France, United States and Spain qualified for the 2019 Davis Cup as semi-finalists in last year’s edition. Argentina arrived at Caja Mágica as the wildcard. This meant that there were 12 spots up for grabs in the February qualifiers, contested by the best teams that hadn’t already sealed a place in Spain.
Here’s what happened:
Australia 4-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina – Australia used five different players but didn’t drop a single set.
Austria 2-3 Chile – Without Dominic Thiem, Austria couldn’t handle the power of Nicolas Jarry.
Brazil 1 -3 Belgium – Kimmer Coppejans rose to the occasion with two wins in singles for a Belgium team without key man David Goffin.
China 2-3 Japan – Taro Daniel won both of his singles matches as Japan held off a resilient China side.
Colombia 4-0 Sweden – The 7-time Davis Cup winners couldn’t muster a set against Colombia, who included star doubles duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
Czech Republic 1-3 Netherlands – Despite struggling this season, Robin Haase brought his A-game to the Davis Cup.
Germany 5 – 0 Hungary – Alex Zverev and Philipp Kohlschreiber had no issues against an inexperienced Hungary team.
India 1 -3 Italy – Despite a loss in doubles, US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini helped Italy to progress.
Kazakhstan 3-1 Portugal – Mikhail Kukushkin played a starring role in Kazakhstan’s win.
Slovakia 2-3 Canada – Canada only called on Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime – the talented youngsters had enough to seal the win.
Switzerland 1 – 3 Russia – A Federer-less Switzerland couldn’t handle top-10 stars Daniil Medvedev or Karen Khachanov.
Uzbekistan 2-3 Serbia – No Djokovic needed as Filip Krajinovic held his nerve in the final rubber.
The presence of Thiem could have possibly swung Austria’s match, although even Federer may not have been enough for Switzerland to overcome a strong Russian side that heads to Spain as sixth favourite to win the 2019 Davis Cup. Other than Sweden’s manner of defeat against Colombia, few shocks could be found in the Davis Cup qualifiers. The likes of Serbia, Canada, Australia and Russia will head to Spain with confidence that they can shake off their ‘qualifier’ tag and go all the way to the title.