Roger Federer says Grand Slam seeds reverting back to 16 from 32 would be 'intriguing'

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Roger Federer believes reverting back to 16 seeds at the Grand Slams is “intriguing” while ex-world No. 1 Carlos Moya says it’s “better for the fans”.

The Grand Slam Board announced on Tuesday changes and trials that will be implemented at the majors, one of which includes reducing the number of seeds from 32 to 16 in 2019.

Halving the number of seeds is an attempt to make the early rounds of the Grand Slams more interesting as it will open up the possibility of higher-ranked players facing off early.

There were 16 seeds at Slams until after Wimbledon in 2001, when the US Open, motivated by demands from television networks, asked for 32 in the hope that stars would still be in contention in the closing rounds.

The decision to revert back to 16 seeds was taken during a two-day meeting of the Grand Slam Board in London last week.

Federer told reporters during the ATP Finals that he understands the issue with having 32 seeds and that taking that number down to 16 could have its advantages.

The Swiss 19-time Grand Slam champion competed in nine majors that had 16 seeds before the figure was doubled in 2001.

“I think there is definitely something intriguing about having 16 seeds. I see the problem of the 32 seeds, it makes – I mean the eight seeds get byes usually at the Masters 1000 I believe, so you make it like these stairs, where once you’re in it, you’re kind of safe, and I feel like there’s too many of these stairs, you know, that you have to get to the top, it’s hard to drop out and hard to get into,” explained Federer in London.

“But I think maybe having 16 seeds that might be interesting, because the draw can be more volatile, and better matches the first week because top guys make a habit or, not cruising, but getting through the first week somewhat comfortably for a long period of time now.

“I do believe playing No.17, or 19, or 21 in the world is not something the top guys really want to do but it is what it is.”

The current 32-seed format means that seeded players can only face-off from the third round onwards. Once that is halved in 2019, a world No. 1 could play a world No. 17 in the opening round. Today, this means a Rafael Nadal v John Isner clash could take place in the first round of a major.

Nadal’s coach, Moya, competed in many Slams that had 16-seed draws. The Spanish 1998 French Open champion sees both pros and cons for the board’s decision.

“For the top players, it’s better like it is now (32 seeds), from the other players’ perspective it’s better the other way, and for the crowd and people watching, probably 16 seeds is better. You get to see more interesting matches in the first rounds,” Moya told Sport360.

The Grand Slam Board also agreed to introduce an on-court shot clock – trialed during the US Open qualifying tournament last August – that would enforce a time limit of 25 seconds between points.

The shot clock proved a big hit with the players during the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan earlier this month.

Other decisions taken during the board meeting include a strict enforcement of the pre-match warm-up timing, as well as a new rule regarding first-round withdrawals at the majors.

A player who withdraws before main draw action starts will receive 50 per cent of first-round prize money in order to discourage competitors from starting their opening rounds while knowingly injured then retiring halfway through. The other half of the prize money would go to the replacement lucky loser.

This year’s Wimbledon witnessed seven first-round retirements in the men’s singles main draw which sparked controversy surrounding players who started matches knowing they were not fit enough to compete, only to collect thousands of pounds in prize money.

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