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Spain beat USA in 2004 to win the Davis Cup final
Spain are the reigning Davis Cup champions
Spain beat the USA in the 2004 Davis Cup final after coming through the World Group.

But what is the World Group and how exactly does the Davis Cup work?

What is the Davis Cup?

The Davis Cup is the tennis equivalent of football's World Cup.

It is a team knock-out tournament played over the course of a year.

It gives tennis players a rare opportunity to play in their nation's colours, rather than as individuals.

Who competes in the Davis Cup?

The competition has grown from just two competing nations to last year when 142 nations were in the mix.

However, only the leading 16 nations - the top-flight known as the World Group - can actually win the Davis Cup.

The others are split into three groups with promotion to and relegation from each.

Their aim is to make it into the World Group.

Of the 16 teams in the World Group, only the winners of the first round tie have their places guaranteed for the following season.

The other eight places are up for grabs.

To decide who gets those places, the eight first-round losers from the World Group play the top eight finishers in Group One in a special play-off round.

That was the case for Switzerland vs. Great Britain in September 2005. Having won, Switzerland earned a place in the World Group while GB were relegated to Group One.

How do you win a tie?

Ties are played over three days. Each team can have up to four players but not all of them need to be used.

There are two singles matches on the first day, a doubles match on the second and two more singles matches on the third day.

Andy Murray and Greg Rusedski
Murray and Rusedski pull together gor Team GB

The country to win the best of five matches wins the tie and goes through to the next round.

The host country decides which surface the matches are played on.

How does the event compare to Grand Slams?

With a chance to get behind their national side, the Davis Cup is hugely popular with tennis fans the world over.

But although the matches generate lots of excitement, the competition still fails to spark many nations' interests.

Whereas an individual can do well in a Grand Slam claiming glory for his or her country, the Davis Cup is tough for teams who lack strength in depth.

In Great Britain's case, even though they now have Greg Rusedski and Andy Murray, they really need two more quality players to share the work load.

In recent times Rusedski has been left shattered by playing three matches in three days.

The decision to rest him against Switzerland backfired when GB were beaten 5-0.

Davis Cup history
The Davis Cup was named after American Dwight Davis
He came up with the idea which began as a challenge match between the USA and Great Britain
First played in 1900, it was originally called the International Lawn Tennis Trophy

Davis Cup facts
Only 10 countries have lifted the Davis Cup in over a century
The US have the record with 31 titles
GB have won the Davis Cup nine times but the last was way back in 1936

:: Davis Cup website

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