The Fed Cup
The Federation Cup, or Fed Cup as it has been known since 1995, is the world’s premier international women’s tennis team competition, and is the counterpart to the male team tournament of the Davis Cup. It was launched after considerable struggles and has been a beacon of women’s equality in sporting excellence for several years. The Heart Award that is given at each Federation Cup by the BNP Paribas Bank is the perfect example of this, recognising players who have shown exceptional courage on court, represented their countries with distinction and demonstrated outstanding team commitment.
Background and History
Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman came up with the idea for a women’s tennis team competition in 1911, but this was rejected at first. Wightman took it upon herself to continue this quest, and presented a trophy in 1923 for an annual contest between Britain and the United States, who were the strongest tennis nations of the day. The Davis Cup was in full swing already, and Nell Hopman, who was married to the Australian Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman, decided to carry the idea further.
Almost 40 years later Mary Hardwick Hare, who was a Briton living in North America, presented the International Tennis Federation with a dossier that proved support for such an event was more than overwhelming, and the ITF approved a week-long event. The Federation Cup was finally launched in 1963, to celebrate the International Federation’s 50th anniversary. By this time the Davis Cup was a wholly international event and from the beginning the Federation Cup was open to all nations, and not just to Britain and America as Mrs. Wightman had first proposed. It was much-anticipated and was a resounding success from the beginning.
The inaugural Federation Cup attracted 16 team entries, even though no prize money was offered and teams had to cover their own expenses. Later sponsorship allowed the entries to expand dramatically, and showed how much support there was for women in the sport. By 1994 there were 73 competing nations, and host cities had to commit to building special complexes with planned uses for later, in what became known as the Federation Cup Legacy. Apart from the prestige of hosting the event, nations consider their involvement a way to develop the game in their countries. The name was shortened to the Fed Cup in 1995 when the tournament changed its format to something more aligned to the Davis Cup.
With the rise in casino mate NZ Cup entries, regional qualifying rounds were introduced in 1992. Many nations enter the Fed Cup, but only 16 qualify for the World Group and the World Group II. There are 8 teams in each Group, and these are the ones who get to vie for the trophy. This is decided though a complicated system that involves several qualifying rounds compete with relegations and promotions.
Once the 2 World Groups have been established, 4 nations are seeded in each according to International Tennis Federation rankings. The losing 4 nations from each World Group are relegated to Fed Cup Zonal Competition events, which are played as round robins. Wherever a team comes in the Fed Cup, it is always an enjoyable way to support growth in women’s tennis and connect with other female players.