Grand Slams vote to keep 32 seeds

Back in November, the Grand Slam committee made the announcement that the four major tournaments “intend to revert to 16 seeds in 2019.

Ten months later, no doubt having had all the feedback on this issue they could have asked for, they back down on that plan.


The Grand Slam Board, after meeting Sept. 6 at the US Open, decided to keep the status quo.

“As always, various 2019 Grand Slam Rule amendments and proposals were considered. Specifically, the GSB re-visited its earlier-stated intention to revert to 16 Seeds in 2019. Following a full year of Grand Slam match analysis and feedback from all other constituencies, especially players and broadcast partners, the Grand Slam tournaments have decided there is no compelling reason to revert to 16 seeds.”

(It makes you wonder how much feedback from players and broadcast partners they solicited before making that announcement last November. But we digress).

Not a popular plan from the start

There was fairly overwhelming support for the current 32-seed format when the floated the idea. 

The format was adopted in the middle of the 2001 season, the year after French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten had complained that clay-court specialists (what a quaint notion!) were at a disadvantage with just 16 seeds. As well, No. 2 seed Venus Williams had lost in the first round to Austria’s Barbara Schett, who was ranked No. 25 but obviously unseeded under that format.

Here’s a Tennis Abstract analysis of the effect of 32 seeds.

So, among all the recent changes – notably the serve clock – this staple will remain as it is.

It may or may not be a coincidence that in a 16-seed draw, Serena Williams would have been unseeded at the US Open this year. Then again, the USTA, which had aleady bumped her up from her ranking of No. 26, might well have made her the No. 16 seed. That would then have meant sister Venus would have been unseeded.  

Men’s semifinalist Kei Nishikori also would have been unseeded, as would women’s champion Naomi Osaka.

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