With the first 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.
Both the men's and women's draws are more stacked compared to a US Open that was missing some top talents, though some big names – including No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 seed Gael Monfils on the men's side, as well as No. 9 Johanna Konta and No. 12 Madison Keys on the women's side – didn't hang around for long. The Big 3 on the men's side – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem – all rolled through their opening rounds, but there are openings for some less heralded players to make deep runs, including an American who almost beat Nadal here back in the day. On the women's side, there's a mix of players young and old with past successes here who did well in the first round and are well positioned to keep rolling.
John Isner - The draw has opened up nicely for Isner, who cruised through the first round 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 over Elliot Benchetrit. His second-round opponent is fellow American Sebastian Korda, who is on the rise but still ranked outside the top 200 at this time. Isner would have been a heavy underdog in a potential third-round match against No. 14 seed Fabio Fognini, but the Italian surprisingly crashed out in the first round. Looking ahead, Isner could face Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, and the big-serving No. 21 seed is the owner of one of the best performances against Nadal at the French Open, losing 6-4 in the fifth set back in 2011.
Diego Schwartzman - Schwartzman looks like a man on a mission, as he swept away 41st-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 in the opening round. He should continue to roll in the second round against 157th-ranked qualifier Lorenzo Giustino, who spent over six hours on court in a 0-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), 2-6, 18-16 first-round win over Corentin Moutet in the first round. The 12th-seeded Argentinian was on pace for a third-round collision with US Open semifinalist Borna Coric, but Coric lost in the first round, opening up the draw beautifully for Schwartzman.
Thiago Monteiro - Monteiro's staring at a golden opportunity to make a deep run on his favorite surface after knocking out 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round. The unheralded Brazilian is on the upswing at age 26; Monteiro's coming off a finals appearance at a challenger on clay, and he proved himself to be a tough out at a Grand Slam by pushing an in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime in a 6-3, 6-7(7), 7-6(6), 7-6(6) loss at the recently completed US Open. Second-round opponent Marcos Giron is coming off a four-hour, 22-minute first-round marathon, and there are no seeds sitting between Monteiro and the Round of 16 after No. 4 Daniil Medvedev was stunned by Marton Fucsovics.
Stefanos Tsitsipas - Tsitsipas might still be reeling a bit from blowing six match points against Coric at the US Open. He lost in the first round at his next tournament, and while he seemed to stabilize with a run to the final of the German Open last week, Tsitsipas had to come back from two sets to love down against Jaume Munar in the first round. His second-round opponent will be Pablo Cuevas, who is the definition of a clay-court specialist, with a career winning percentage over .600 on the surface compared to a sub-.500 mark otherwise. Tsitsipas just beat Cuevas at the German Open, but the courts at Roland Garros are playing much slower, which plays into the 34-year-old Argentine's hands.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina - Davidovich Fokina is brimming with confidence after making a run to the Round of 16 at the US Open, and the Spaniard has a nice opportunity to pull the second-round upset against 13th-seeded Andrey Rublev. Rublev had to come from two sets down to beat Sam Querrey in the opening round, and the Russian's aggressive style isn't as conducive to clay-court tennis, as he had never won a match at the French Open prior to this tournament.
Iga Swiatek - Swiatek made a statement in the opening round, dismantling 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-2. The 19-year-old Pole reached the Round of 16 at the French Open last year and backed that result up with another fourth-round run at the 2020 Australian Open, so she's already a proven performer at the biggest tournaments. There are no seeds standing between Swiatek and the Round of 16, where she could have an opportunity to avenge last year's French Open loss to top seed Simona Halep. Swiatek will face Su-Wei Hsieh in the second round.
Victoria Azarenka - Azarenka's playing as well as anybody on the women's tour right now, and the US Open finalist is showing that she's just as capable of dominating on clay, as she had a 6-0, 6-0 win over Sofia Kenin at the Italian Open before suffering a hard-fought 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Garbine Muguruza. Seeded No. 10 here, Azarenka kept rolling with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Danka Kovinic in the opening round, and 161st-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova will have a hard time slowing Azarenka down.
Maria Sakkari - Sakkari is playing the best tennis of her career, as she beat Coco Gauff and Serena Williams en route to a quarterfinal run in Cincinnati before having her US Open run ended by Williams in the Round of 16. Seeded 20th, the 25-year-old Athens native beat Alja Tomljanovic 6-0, 7-5 in the first round here and will likely be happy with how the draw unfolded around her as well. Potential third-round opponent and No. 9 seed Johanna Konta – who beat Sakkari in Cincinnati – lost to Gauff, whom Sakkari handled 6-1, 6-3 in Cincinnati. Sakkari's second-round opponent will be 182nd-ranked Kamilla Rakhimova.
Karolina Pliskova - Pliskova lost in the second round of the US Open as the No. 1 seed, and she's in danger of suffering the same fate at the French Open as the No. 2 seed. She's just over a week removed from retiring in the final of the Italian Open with an injury, and Pliskova struggled in a 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-4 win over 172nd-ranked Mayar Sherif. The drawmakers also did Pliskova no favors, as her second-round opponent will be 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who is still just 23 years old and is capable of beating anybody if she can keep her double faults under control.
Sara Errani - Errani has never quite recovered from her 2017 doping suspension, but the 33-year-old Italian is a capable clay-court performer, as evidenced by her run to the final here back in 2012. She dominated Monica Puig 6-2, 6-1 in the first round and will have nothing to lose as the second-round underdog against No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens. Bertens dropped the first set against 112th-ranked Katarina Zavatska in the opening round, and Errani owns a 5-0 career edge in their head-to-head, though the last of those matches came back in 2016.