Coming Soon: Major Rules Changes


Major changes are coming to the Grand Slam format in 2018, but the big break from tradition will take place in 2019. The Grand Slam committee and the four majors – Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open and Roland Garros, have decided to introduce a 25-second clock at all four major tournaments and in another step to diminish subtle gamesmanship, players who delay the start of play during warm-ups at the beginning of a match will now be hit with fines.

The Grand Slam also announced a new policy for injured players who decide to pullout of a major just before the event begins or during their first round match. Any player who withdraws after 12 noon on Thursday of the week prior to the beginning of a major will receive fifty percent of allotted prize money for a first-round loss, while the lucky loser selected to take his or her place will receive the other half of the allotted prize money. First round prize money at the US Open last year was $50,000 for both male and female singles draws.

2019 will feature a return to a former rule where the number of seeded players at each major will revert back to 16 instead of the current 32. This of course is a move to potentially threaten the top players of tennis who will face the risk of more challenging draws in the first week at majors. In the current system, a top eight seed would not face a player seeded higher than 25-32 in the third round. In 2019, a top seed could face the no. 17 player in the world in the first round.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I like all these rule changes but will miss the pre-match gamesmanship of fixing water bottles, last second bathroom breaks, and other various stall tactics. Gamesmanship is always interesting and controversial :) But tricky clever players will just need to be more creative in how they try to annoy opponents.

  • Hartt · November 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

    I just read an interesting analysis by Jeff Sackmann, “The Effect of 32 Seeds,” (posted in May 2014). He makes a compelling argument that the top 16 seeds did nearly as well under the old 16-seed system as they did under the 32-seed one, so the second week of a tournament was not now dramatically different, and the top players still faced one another in the final. The players seeded 17-32 did slightly better under the 32-seed system, but not dramatically so.

    He ends his article with: “If the 32-seed era were to end here, there’s little reason for tennis fans to miss it.”

    I think going back to the 16-seed system would be a positive change. Perhaps we would have a few more interesting matches in the first weeks of Slams, rather than just having a top player cream some poor lamb, as happens so often.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

    I wonder if the top players put up any resistance to this change to 16 seeds.

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Think I mentioned this earlier – I’d agree about the seeds, particularly for women. I remember when they changed to 32 in the 80s and I thought it was a bad move then. Still is. They should make this change next year.

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Scoop – I can’t see why they should. And they’ll have to put up with it. Not until 2019 anyway.

  • Hartt · November 22, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Federer seemed somewhat in favour of the change. He understands it will help some of the lower-ranked players get a foothold.

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Well, that’s the whole point of real tournaments anyway, I would have thought.

  • Joe Blow · November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Bring back Bonus points for beating a higher seed.

    Through the years I’ve seen a lot of draws pre 32 seeds, where 16 played 17. Happened a few years to Swedes Jarryd, and Nystrom at the US Open. Great for fans, not so great for the loser

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Coaching carousel – Konta to hire Michael Joyce….

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    And no need for her peers to worry about Svitolina – she’s in Brisbane playing cricket :)

    Well – it is the Silly Season…

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 22, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I think Svitolina has a cricket-playing boyfriend from England, is that correct?

    I don’t think the first-round withdrawals is as big a problem as others do. I hate it when a player WDs in the fourth or later because they came out of part of the draw only not to be able to go on plus fewer matches in the latter stages. Who is going to complain when Tursonov WDs in the first round, really, no one should watch him play anyway now.

    I think 32 seeds is fine to protect the seeds 17-32. Imagine Jack Sock is 7 in the world and has to play Kyrgios first round. Is that a good thing?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Gotta play the cards you’re dealt. These measures are fan friendly. First round heavyweight matches always add an extra level of excitement to the first days of a major.

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Duke – is that so ? I had no idea. Would explain why Svitolina’s in Brisbane. Wonder if she’s planning to follow the whole tour with time-outs for the tennis ? I wonder where on earth she met him. She managed to hit a few balls, not too badly, although her stance at the wicket could do with a few adjustments :)

    The 16 seeds is better for the women’s draw. That way you avoid some pretty awful matches. Definitely fan friendly.

  • Andrew Miller · November 22, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Not sure about the changes. Seem ok. Hopefully some discretion from the ump.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I feel like draws are open enough. We have seen guys like D-Young, Lajovic, Marchenko, Zeballos, Gabashvili and even Danis Kudla make the round of 16 at Slams in recent years.

    Here’s a story on Svitolina’s cricket man.

    Also any thoughts on the withdrawal rule?

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 22, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Lots of nice photos I had never seen of Svitolina in that link!

  • catherine · November 23, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Duke – I hadn’t seen that story but then I don’t look at the Sun :)

    Can see a bit of needle there if Elina faces Ashleigh Barty who will backing Oz and is a cricketer herself. Also I hope Elina has plenty of hankies ready – England will be thrashed.
    Seriously – she could be a bit distracted – it’s a long tour.

    I think the withdrawal rule is ok – a shot across the bows for anyone looking at an easy payday.

  • catherine · November 23, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Svitolina has Kerber’s number so I’m also hoping if they meet that Elina is focussed on cricket :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Svitolina should win a major in the next two years. Happy thanksgiving to everyone.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Curious to see how Rafa handles this pressure to speed it up. He’s notorious for making the opponent wait for the net coin toss as he fidgets with his bottles, bag, wristbands, gel, etc. Forcing Rafa to speed it up will be the most interesting aspect of this rule change. I wish they would rule out the finger points to ballkids to get towels.

  • catherine · November 23, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve been watching some of the Graf/Novotna matches from the 90s. Amazing stuff. Probably, along with Navratilova, the absolute peak of that style of tennis. I could watch it forever.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    She was a beautiful elegant player with a distinctive athleticism which I could still see in my mind. I only have one personal memory of Novotna. We never did a Biofile. In the early 90s at Madison Square Garden at the year end championships – what a fantastic event that was – outside the media interview area, Novotna was standing with some officials and they were looking at the poster of her on either the wall, the curtain or a stand. It was an action shot of Novotna about two feet tall by two feet wide. And Novotna was pointing to her legs in the picture which showed some cellulite, she was kind of critical of her legs not in a bad way but honest and sort of making fun of herself. Odd how that is the only encounter I ever had with Novotna. I happened to be walking by and this caught my eye. That really was a special, exciting event to cover. Remember seeing Wilt Chamberlin watching near the media center tunnel entrance, in about row eight, sitting by himself enjoying the action on a week night.

  • catherine · November 24, 2017 at 2:58 am

    Yes, a great event – I went to MSG a couple of times but unfortunately wasn’t there to see Graf/Sabatini squaring off in 1988 I think it was.
    Graf came out ahead of Gabriela but they did play some good matches before Sabatini retired, only available now in poor quality clips unfortunately.

    Novotna’s Wimbledon win in ’98 isn’t available at all on Youtube, at least in the UK. It’s been blocked, by IMG no doubt. Shame.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I am anxiously waiting for the Davis Cup final between France and Belgium to begin. Goffin will play Pouille and the it is Tsonga vs Darcis. They modified the stadium in Lille to have 27,500 seats and the event is sold out for all 3 days. Lille is close to Belgium and thousands of Belgian fans made the trip.

    The final is being carried by 47 broadcasters across 166 territories. And some people claim DC is not popular!

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 24, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Pouilee, surprisingly, is 3-0 vs Goffin. Will be interesting to see if Goffin has anything left in his tank. So much pressure on Goffin to beat Pouille for the first time, because if he loses then you have to expect Tsonga to beat Darcis for 2-0 and then Gasquet and Pierre Hugues Herbert to beat Bemelmans and Jooris. Could be a rout for France. Noah left Mahut off the team for his doubles dominance, instead feeling that he might need Gasquet for singles in case an injury arises. Could be a blowout win for France but as we know Davis Cup scripts seldom go as we expected.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Agree that France is the favourite. I am rooting for the underdog, so sincerely hope it is not a blowout. And, as you say, DC seldom goes the way we expect. Who knows, Darcis is not called “Mr. Davis Cup” for nothing.

    So far, the first set between Goffin and Pouille is close. Two aces by Goffin and it is 5-5.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 24, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Goffin takes first set 75.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 9:27 am

    And Goffin is up a break in the 2nd set – looking good for the wee Belgian. He has made some amazing shots in the match so far.

  • catherine · November 24, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Hartt- Davis Cup has always been popular, especially the finals. It’s the Federation Cup which struggles unfortunately. – just doesn’t have the tradition, or, sometimes, the players.

    ‘wee Belgian’ ?
    Are you of Scottish descent by any chance ?

  • catherine · November 24, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Anyway – great match for the wee Belgian :) I feared he might be a bit tired.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Catherine, I agree that Davis Cup is popular but I have arguments with posters on other sites about it. Because they aren’t interested they think no one else is either. And there are people who think if the top guys aren’t playing, DC is useless. I think the exact opposite – it is great to see some of the lesser lights for a change, especially when an underdog plays the match of his life and has a huge upset.

    I have some Scottish roots, but the Scots played a big role in Canadian history and society, so I suspect that is where words like “wee” come from.

  • catherine · November 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Well, as you say, people who think the Davis Cup isn’t popular just aren’t paying attention – no use arguing with closed minds :)

    I have an old friend in Glasgow and ‘wee’ crops up often in her emails and conversation. So I’m used to it. Also used a lot in the north of England, around Northumberland. Talking of which, do you read Ann Cleeve’s detective stories? Lots of that talk in those.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for the tip about Ann Cleeve, will see if my library has her books.

  • Hartt · November 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Wow, is Ann Cleeves ever popular. The library has 77 copies of her latest book, but there are 322 holds for it! So I opted for a couple of her earlier books – Silent Voices and The Glass Room. There are just a few holds for those, so the wait shouldn’t be too long.

  • catherine · November 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

    DC doubles – tremendous scrap.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 25, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    I think it would be cool if it was combined men and women.

    Four singles – two men and two women, each worth one point.
    Three doubles – men, women, mixed for a total of one point.

    Each country must use two men and two women for singles.
    Day one – men’s singles, women’s singles.
    Day two – three doubles – best-of-3 with a pro set in the third. This way the Saturday of matches has more than one match. Mixed doubles is called off if one country sweeps the first two.
    Day three – men’s singles, women’s singles.

    I just think my format is cooler and you can name it Duke Cup after me!

  • catherine · November 25, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    There’s something like that called the Hopman Cup:)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    IPTL and WTT are also combined events which combine singles and doubles and mixed. I really enjoy all three especially Hopman and IPTL.

  • Matty · November 26, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Here are the changes I would propose: All ranked players eligible for Masters Series and Grand Slams are automatically pre-entered. If player withdraws, such as for a medical condition, said player sits for a four-week recovery period. Same if a player retires during a match. Want to blow off the clay court season? No Wimbledon for you. Want to retire early at the Paris Masters? Then you sir will miss the tour finals. Can’t make it to Shanghai this year? Here’s a donut hole for you too at Shanghai & Paris. There’s entirely too much cherry picking at the elite level and match retirements are now way out of hand too…

  • Joe Blow · November 26, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Fed will play the Clay season this year, unless he’s hurting. No points to defend from last year,any points will be helpful, if he’s taking his last shot at Number 1

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 26, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Right but the Hopman Cup is just one week. I say extend it the whole year.

  • catherine · November 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Duke – can you honestly see all those players, men and women, giving up time in their crowded calendar for that kind of competition ?
    And what about countries which have strong men’s teams but weak, or no, women’s ? And vice versa ? And ranking points ? Prizemoney ?

    I see difficulties ahead for the Duke Cup :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    If Billie Jean King says she wants Hopman Cup to be a full season four quarter event like Davis Cup, everyone will obey her commands and make it happen. If BJK decides to create the BJK Cup mixed event based on Duke’s guidelines, it will happen.



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