James Dwight, first president of the US Lawn Tennis Association, comes up with the idea of pitting American and British players against one another. It would take 19 years before the first match takes place.
The first match, between the United States and Britain (competing as the "British Isles"), was held at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Massachusetts in 1900. The American team, of which Dwight Davis was a part, surprised the British by winning the first three matches.
Beginning in 1923, the world's teams were split into two zones: the "America Zone" and the "Europe Zone". The winners of the two zones met in the Inter-Zonal Zone ("INZ") to decide which national team would challenge the defending champion for the cup.
In 1955 a third zone, the "Eastern Zone", was added. Because there were three zones, the winner of one of the three zones received a bye in the first round of the INZ challenger rounds. In 1966, the "Europe Zone" was split into two zones, "Europe Zone A" and "Europe Zone B", so the winners of the four zones competed in the INZ challenger rounds.
From 1950 to 1967, Australia dominated the competition, winning the Cup 15 times in 18 years
Up until 1973, the Davis Cup had only ever been won by the United States, Great Britain/British Isles, France and Australia/Australasia. Their domination was eventually broken in 1974 when South Africa and India made the final; however the final was scratched and South Africa awarded the cup after India refused to travel to South Africa in protest at South Africa's apartheid policies.
In 1981, the tiered system of competition in use today was created, in which the 16 best national teams compete in the World Group and all other national teams compete in one of four groups in one of three regional zones. In 1989, the tiebreak was introduced into Davis Cup competition, and from 2016 it is used in all five sets.
In 2018, the ITF voted to change the format of the competition from 2019 onwards, changing it to an 18-team event to happen at the end of the season, with 71% of ITF member federations voting in favour of the change. The new format, backed by footballer Gerard Pique and Japanese businessman Hiroshi Mikitani, was likened to a world cup of tennis and was designed to be more attractive to sponsors and broadcasters.
Find out more about the rules and regulations of the Davis Cup by following this link