Before the beginning of the talk about the Davis Cup, it is probably worth recalling the history of the emergence and development of tennis as a whole, as a sport. Indeed, without an understanding and knowledge of the basics, all other knowledge loses its value.
Where the history begins
The first prerequisites for the emergence of this kind of sport appeared in the relatively near XIX century. At the same time, the concept of “lawn tennis” appeared, which literally can be translated as tennis on the lawn. This is the term professionals apply to modern tennis.
The forerunner of modern tennis can be called real tennis, which was presented to the world in the 6th century. We played real tennis in monasteries with teams of 6 people each. Initially, the ball fought back with a hand, then with a glove, a bat, and then, in the 16th century, a racket and a net appeared. It is worth noting that by this time many European kings played real-tennis. At the same time, the game moved from random premises to special rooms that the elite rebuilt in their castles. And for a long time, real tennis remained the lot of the elect due to limited space and a small number of participants.
The history of turning real tennis into lawn tennis (modern tennis) is not known for certain. But some sources claim that it was invented in Wales in 1873 by Major Walt Wingfield. He invented it as an entertainment for his guests in his own mansion, while borrowing a lot not only from real tennis, but also from badminton. For example, the height of the net at first was the same as in badminton – one and a half meters. In 1874, Wingfield patented lawn tennis, because even then his commercial success was evident. But this did not help limit the number of adherents to this game, and tennis became rapidly spreading across the UK and the USA. Over time, competitors began to appear, producing equipment for the game. And in 1877, Wingfield refused to renew the patent – the game became incredibly popular.
The start of the way of modern tennis can be considered the appearance of the oldest and one of the most prestigious Wimbledon tournaments, which was first held in 1877. After that, other tennis competitions began to appear. For example, the first competition between national teams, referred to as the Davis Cup, has started since 1900. In addition, it is worth noting that even then, in 1896, tennis was officially included in the list of Olympic sports, which can only mean one thing: tennis was really perceived as a real sport. However, it should be noted that for more than 50 years the game was excluded from the Olympic program and restored only in 1988.
The first professional tennis players began to appear in the twenties of the last century, and since the early seventies the Open Era has been counting down, according to which all tournaments are open and combined into several major tours conducted by international organizations ATP, ITF and WTA.
Like everybody knows, tennis is pair or team game, where the main principle is to hit the ball with a special racket (string coating), following certain rules.
Tennis today, as before, is held in specially equipped courts. One of the most important conditions of the court is the presence of a special coating, which can be of several types: fast and slow hard, soil and grass. Each of these covers corresponds to the Grand Slam tournament – the four most prestigious competitions in the world of tennis.
The slow court is used at the Australian Open. Then, in the calendar year, followed by a clay tournament in France – Roland Garros. After that the oldest competition takes place, this time on the grass – Wimbledon. The last Grand Slam tournament in chronology is the US Open, which matches are held on a fast hard.
The territory of the court is divided into several sections. The central part is used when playing one-on-one, and the side corridors begin to be taken into account during a pair match. In addition to a single discharge, there is a double discharge and a double mix, that is, a team of two people consists of a man and a woman.
The process of modern games is practically no different from tennis, which was played a hundred years ago. Tennis player throws the ball, throwing it into the air, and then beats the racket in the direction of the enemy. A point is credited only if the opponent could not hit the ball and he touched the ground more than once. As a rule, a victory is counted only when one of the players gets 4 points.
In regular tournaments, to win, men need to win three games, women – two. In Grand Slam tournaments, men need to win in five sets in order to pass on. In girls, everything remains the same.
About Davis cup
And now, back to the topic of the Davis Cup. Obviously, if you read the name carefully, you can guess that these competitions were named after a certain person. And there is.
Even more than a hundred years ago, four students at Harvard University decided to start holding a tennis tournament, in which all national teams could participate. Among these students was one who managed to develop a whole scheme for holding such tournaments, but, most importantly, he raised money and bought a prize for a future winner — a silver cup. This student was named Dwight Davis.
Dwight Filley Davis was born on July 5, 1879 in St. Louis (Missouri) in the family of a successful businessman, from the English kind of aristocrats who arrived in New World and managed to make a millionth in banking and wholesale haberdashery. After graduating from the Smith Academy in St. Louis (an elite elementary school of the University of Washington, teaching boys from 4 years old to 16 years old) in 1896 entered Harvard University in economics, graduating in 1900 (parents wanted him to prepare for doing business in the family business). Already in his first year, he seriously became interested in tennis, although the first time Dwight took a racket in the resort town of Oceanside, in the summer of 1894, where his mother, Maria, had brought him. Davis spent so much time on tennis that it affected his academic performance and was left for the second year.
Dwight Davis was a restrained person in life, which did not prevent him from practicing an aggressive style of play on the court, especially his height of 183 cm contributed to this. In addition, he was left-handed, which generally allowed him to achieve high results. However, the risky tactic of the game brought him not only victories, but also unexpected defeats.
In 1898, Davis reached the final of the US National Championship (in Newport), both in singles (he lost to Malcolm Whiteman 6: 3; 2: 6; 2: 6; 1: 6) and in a pair with his university friend Holcomb Ward (lost to Leo Weir and George Sheldon 6: 1; 5: 7; 4: 6; 6: 4; 5: 7).
The following year, he became the champion of the United States among students in singles and won with the Ward in a pair of the US Championship. This couple won the champion title from 1900 to 1901 and in 1905 (in 1904 lost in the final), besides they became the finalists of “Wimbledon 1901” (lost to the invincible pair of Dorekhti brothers 6: 4; 2: 6; 3: 6; 7: 9).
Dwight Davis from 1898 to 1901 was in the top 10 of the United States and was the second in the years 1899-1900.
Despite significant progress on the courts, he became known to the whole world thanks to his initiative to hold the World Team Tennis Championship, which received the name “Davis Cup” after the organizer’s death, although it was so unofficially called a long time ago.
It all started with Davis’ idea to hold a match meeting with his friends tennis players from England. So in 1899, a Harvard University student, Dwight Davis, and a leader by nature, invited their English friends on vacation with a proposal to play a match meeting with the Boston team, in which he included his fellow students Malcolm Whiteman (champion of the USA in 1898-1900) as a captain and Holcomb Ward (the future champion of the USA in 1904). The history has not kept the names of their rivals.
The surprise for the participants of this match was the prize – a silver bowl weighing 6.152 kg with dimensions: 45.7 cm wide and 33.0 cm high. For the manufacture, which Dwight paid $ 750 (the amount at that time impressive) of the American company “William B. Durgin Co” from Concord. Because of the thick and wide legs, the bowl is often called “salad bowl”, and friends, jokingly, called this prize: “A small Dwight’s pot” (“small”, because of all the friends he was the youngest).
It must be said that the masters of the golds who made the cup turned out to be high professionals. At the expiration of a century, their product has not lost any brilliance or presentable appearance.
The winning party won with a score of 3:0. Since tennis, which appeared 25 years ago, has become the most fashionable sport, the first international match received coverage in the American and English press and thus attracted the attention of tennis functionaries from these countries.
In February 1900, the national tennis associations of England and the United States, with the consent of Davis, decided to hold an annual team tournament between England and the USA, the winner of which was a challenge cup donated by Dwight.
Davis cup today
Today, the Davis Cup matches are held among teams that are divided into some levels and groups. When a player wins or loses in one season – they move to another level in the next season, to a level higher or lower, respectively.
The first group is a World group in which matches are held on the principle of the Olympic Games, that is, the team that loses is forced to leave the tournament. Further, the levels are divided into zones, among which America, Europe, Africa and Asia with Oceania stand out, with each of the zones together containing several groups. The highest groups play according to the Olympic system, while the lower groups play according to the circular system. Accordingly, those who lose – increase in level, and those who lose – decrease. In the case of the most low-leveled teams, they drop out of the game.
Those players from the first group who manage to get a victory are forced to play a qualifying tournament with outsiders of the World Group to determine if they have the right to move further to the highest level in subsequent seasons of the game.
Thus, each of the rounds of the tournament is played for three days in total, the players must play five matches. As a rule, these matches are held from Friday to Sunday. Of the five matches in order to advance further, you need to win at least three. On the first day, they hold two single matches, on the second one a double match is held, and on the third day, the remaining two single matches are held as well. As a rule, those matches are played by those who played on the first day, the rivals simply change. There are no requirements for a doubles match, each player can take part.
Nowadays, the rules of the game practically do not change, and athletes from around the world continue to take part in this tournament, receiving at least one champion title. Athletes from the USA, Australia, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Argentina and many other countries have repeatedly met on the courts to compete for the famous cup. The latest victories were taken by tennis players from France and Croatia.