The women's equivalent of the DAVIS CUP men's team tennis competition can be traced back to 1919 when US tennis star Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman presented the idea of an international team competition for women. She found few backers for the idea, and so created a tournament of her own, pitting the US against Great Britain. It wasn't until 1962 that the International Tennis Federation finally decided to back a women's version of the prestigious Davis Cup.
The first Federation Cup competition took place the following year, in 1963. Like the Davis Cup, it differs from the professional tennis circuit in that the competition pits country against country, not player against player, in a series of head-to-head matchups over the course of the year to decide the year-end champion. The first event in 1963 featured 16 countries, including Canada. In 2002, participating countries numbered nearly 100.
In the early years, the Federation Cup was contested over the course of a one-week tournament at a predetermined venue. Because of the increase in participating nations, the Federation Cup moved closer to the Davis Cup format, with competition among the 16 elite World Group countries staged over a series of weekend head-to-head matchups leading to a year-end final. The hosts for the preliminary-round matchups, also known as "ties," are determined through a draw, and each head-to-head matchup features four singles matches and one doubles match. The host country also gets to decide which playing surface to use based on either the strengths of its own players or the weaknesses of the visiting players. The first country to win three of those matches advances. But unlike the Davis Cup, four teams advance to a final competition at one venue to play for the Federation Cup. The teams outside of the World Group play in regional qualifying events in hopes of reaching the final 16.
Just as in Davis Cup competition, the US dominates the Federation Cup, winning 17 titles to date, including a stretch of seven in a row from 1976 to 1982. Australia follows with seven (but none since 1974), followed by Spain and Czechoslovakia with five apiece. During the 2001 Federation Cup, Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Great Britain's Virginia Wade shared the record for most wins in the competition with 66 apiece, followed by Latvia's Larisa Neiland at 65.
Canada has never won the Federation Cup but hosted the event's championship round in 1987 at Vancouver, an event won by West Germany. In 2009 Canada narrowly lost to Belgium in a World Group II play-off. (It had not played in the World Group since 1994). Sonya Jeyaseelan of Toronto is Canada's all-time leader in Federation Cup victories with 28 (12-5 record in singles, 16-2 in doubles). Patricia Hy-Boulais of Montreal is next with a 27-27 career record (16-19 in singles, 11-8 in doubles). Aleksandra WOZNIAK currently holds the Canadian record for the most singles wins.