Among the reforms to Grand Slams recently agreed upon by the Grand Slam Board is the reduction from 32 seeds to just 16 starting at Australian Open 2019. This is a change that will almost certainly have a massive impact in the outcome of the tournaments; with only 16 seeds, the players at the very top might have to face a top 20 player in the first round, thus significantly increasing the chance of early upsets. Under the 32-seed system, the early rounds tended to be little more than a warm-up for the top players, who were very rarely challenged in a meaningful way, but now they might need to be at the top of their game from the start to avoid being upset. By the same token, it also makes life more difficult for those unlucky enough to be ranked between 17-32, who will now no longer be protected from facing a top player in the first round. It is a change that should definitely make the early rounds of Slams more exciting and unpredictable.
It is, however, not exactly an innovation but rather a return to the past. The 32-seed system is actually a pretty recent innovation; Wimbedon 2001 was the first Slam to feature it. Prior to that, 16 seeds was the norm. Perhaps that change was one of the main reasons why there have been relatively few upset champions in Slams in the past 15 years (at least on the men’s side). It certainly played its role in allowing the best player to just work their way into the tournament in the early round without much risk of getting upset.
It remains to be seen exactly how this change will impact the sport, namely its showpiece events, but it certainly introduces a new and exciting element into the mix and gives the Grand Slams an entirely new complexion.