Fed Cup History

Castellaneta Marina, ITALY: Italian Francesca Schiavone plays French Nathalie Dechy and Severine Bremond in the deciding doubles with her teammate Roberta Vinci during the Fed Cup semi-final between Italy and France, 15 July 2007 in Castellaneta Marina, South Italy. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hotchkiss, Hopman and Hare are the visionaries who first mooted and later supported the idea of an international women’s tennis tournament that could rival the auspicious Davis Cup, the men’s equivalent.

As early as 1919 Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman argued for an international tennis team event for women. Her idea was arrogantly dismissed and she turned her attention to a competition between the top-two tennis playing nations of the time, the US and Great Britain. Thus materialised the “Wightman” Cup, an annual event between the two wartime allies.

When Nell Hopman, wife of Australian Davis Cup Captain, Harry Hopman, took up Wightman’s cause, the idea of the Fed Cup soon resurfaced. With the clout of the Hopmans behind her, Mary Hardwick Hare provided the ITF (International Tennis Federation) with a dossier outlining the support behind the Fed Cup. It was overwhelming.

The ITF eventually conceded that a team championship played over one week in a different venue each year was a ‘good idea’. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the ITF launched the Federation Cup in 1963. It was in 1995 when the structure of the Cup was changed so that women could play for their country in their country, that the name was shortened to Fed Cup.

In the short Fed Cup history the number of competing countries has rocketed from the initial 16 to the current-day 82 nations! The top-ranked women tennis players over the years have fought and won matches at venues like the Luzhniki Palace of Sports in Moscow, Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris, Flinders Park in Melbourne and the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos 1 in Madrid, Spain.

From the beginning, the legends of the game gave their full support to the Fed Cup. The likes of Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graff, Chrissie Evert and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario put their bodies on the line for their countries.

In recent times Venus and Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have kept tennis fans glued to their seats as they travel to different venues, with very different court surfaces and make Fed Cup history at the most illustrious women’s team event on the tennis calendar.