With the third round of the French Open in the books, it's time to highlight which players are on the rise and which ones look most vulnerable heading into the next round. Players who have been eliminated are of little interest to fantasy players as the tournament unfolds, so this column is meant to take a look ahead based on what's happened so far rather than reflect on the past.
Even in a tournament that's felt full of upsets, eight of the top 10 men's seeds remain among the final 16. Italy and Spain both have three players remaining in the men's draw, and while the bottom half is guaranteed to produce a first-time French Open finalist, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic continue to cruise through the top half. All four remaining American men crashed out in the third round, but the red, white and blue is unsurprisingly faring much better on the women's side, where the four Americans to make the fourth round include three former Grand Slam champions and teenage sensation Coco Gauff, who's looking to break through into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Just three of the top 14 women's seeds are still in the tournament.
Alexander Zverev - Zverev lost the first two sets in his first-round match against countryman Oscar Otte, but the sixth-seeded German has reeled off nine consecutive sets since, most recently taking out Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the third round. The 2020 US Open finalist has a favorable path as he looks to make his first career Roland Garros semifinal, with no seeds standing in his way. Fourth-round opponent Kei Nishikori has plenty of experience in big matches, but Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-1, including a pair of clay-court wins in 2021. Should he get through Nishikori, Zverev would face either Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Federico Delbonis in what would be the first career Grand Slam quarterfinal for either player.
Daniil Medvedev - Medvedev came into this tournament with an 0-4 career record at the French Open, but it was only a matter of time until the two-time Grand Slam finalist broke through at this tournament, and he's doing so here. He's dropped just one set through three rounds, and while fourth-round opponent Cristian Garin plays his best tennis on clay, the second-seeded Russian has to fancy his chances in what will be Garin's first Round of 16 at the Grand Slam level. Garin topped Medvedev in Madrid to even their career head-to-head at 1-1, but the story's likely to be different on this big stage.
Roger Federer - Federer overcame a tough challenge from Dominik Koepfer 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 7-5 in the third round, setting up a showdown with ninth-seeded Matteo Berrettini. Berrettini's the highest-ranked player anybody in the top eight could face, but Federer won't be sweating this matchup. Federer's excellent at neutralizing big servers like Berrettini, and the 20-time Grand Slam champion's own serving prowess will make it difficult for the Italian to get many break chances. Unsurprisingly, Federer has dominated their head-to-head, winning both previous encounters in straight sets while dropping just 14 games over those five sets.
Jannik Sinner - Sinner has raised his level with each match, needing five sets to get through the opening round, four in the second and three in the third, but the 18th-seeded Italian has run into perhaps the toughest draw you can get at any tournament: Nadal at Roland Garros. Nadal beat Sinner 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of last year's French Open, which Nadal won without dropping a set, and the Spaniard added a 7-5, 6-4 win over Sinner in Rome this year to grab a 2-0 lead in their career head-to-head. While Sinner's quickly turning into one of the world's best clay-court players, Nadal's still the undisputed No. 1 on this surface.
Jan-Lennard Struff - Struff has already taken out one top-10 player in this tournament, knocking out No. 7 Andrey Rublev in a five-set, first-round thriller. The German has proven that result was no fluke by sweeping away his next two opponents in straight sets, so he'll be brimming with confidence heading into his fourth-round encounter with 10th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman. The pair have split their previous two career meetings, and while Schwartzman's undoubtedly the more accomplished player on this surface, Struff certainly has a chance to pull off the upset.
Victoria Azarenka - Azarenka has navigated a tough draw while getting better with every match. After being pushed to three sets by 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round, the No. 15 seed cooled down red-hot Danish teenager Clara Tauson in straight sets, then dismantled 23rd-seeded American Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in what was Azarenka's best performance of the tournament. She's accustomed to playing in the second week, having made the semifinals or better in all four Grand Slams, and Azarenka has dominated fourth-round opponent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in their previous meetings. Azarenka leads their career head-to-head 5-1, and the one loss was a match in which Azarenka retired in the second set after winning the first.
Serena Williams - Williams is no stranger to playing her way into form over the course of a major, and that's what appears to be going on here. Her 6-4, 6-4 victory over Danielle Collins in the third round was easily Serena's best performance of the tournament, and the seventh-seeded Williams will be heavily favored against No. 21 seed Elena Rybakina in what will be Rybakina's first career Round of 16 match at a Grand Slam. Williams and Azarenka are on a collision course to meet in the quarterfinals, and the winner of that potential matchup would be heavily favored to advance to the championship match in the wide open bottom half of the draw.
Coco Gauff - At No. 24, Gauff is the highest-ranked player left in her section of the draw until the semifinals. She's yet to drop a set in this tournament and just cruised through what was supposed to be her toughest challenge yet, taking the first set 6-1 over Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady before Brady retired due to an injury. The 17-year-old American is in the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the third time already, and 25th-seeded Ons Jabeur is the only player standing between Gauff and her first major quarterfinal. They've split two previous meetings, both on clay.
Maria Sakkari - At No. 17, Sakkari's the fifth-highest seed of the 16 players left in the women's draw. Unfortunately for her, she's set to face the highest-seeded player left in No. 4 Sofia Kenin. Kenin, who reached the final of this event last year after winning the 2020 Australian Open, has gotten into a groove here at Roland Garros after struggling with her game coming into this tournament. Sakkari has made noticeable improvements in her game this season, but she's going to have a hard time hitting through Kenin, who possesses a better mix of offensive and defensive skills, especially with the conditions slowing down in recent days. Kenin leads their head-to-head 2-1, with both of the American's wins coming at Grand Slams, though these two have never previously met on clay.
Sloane Stephens - Stephens is always capable of making a deep run when she's locked in, especially on the slower clay-court surface, which is best suited for her defensively oriented game. The 2018 French Open runner-up and 2017 US Open champion survived a first-round scare in a 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Carla Suarez Navarro, then upset ninth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-1 in the second round before pulling a 6-3, 7-5 third-round upset over Australian Open semifinalist Karolina Muchova. Fourth-round opponent Barbora Krejcikova is ranked 26 spots ahead of Stephens, but the American has to fancy her chances given the level she's displayed in her last two matches.