With the third round of the US 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 owners 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.
The usual suspects are in contention on the men's side, though one member of the Big 3 is playing an especially dangerous opponent in the Round of 16, and it's not who you might think. A pair of women ranked outside the top 20 have put themselves in excellent position to make the quarterfinals, while a couple of top seeds will be on upset alert.
Alexander Zverev - Zverev hasn't made things easy for himself with two five-set victories and a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (3) win over Aljaz Bedene in the third round, but the No. 6 seed is in the fourth round at the US Open for the first time. And Zverev will be favored to reach his third career Grand Slam quarterfinal over No. 20 seed Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman beat a teenage Zverev back in 2014, but the German comfortably won their only matchup since 6-4, 6-2 at the Paris Masters in 2018.
Gael Monfils - After winning a five-set thriller against Denis Shapovalov in the third round, the 13th-seeded Monfils will be rewarded with a matchup against perhaps the least threatening opponent left in the draw — 70th-ranked Pablo Andujar. This is a great opportunity for the veteran Frenchman to make his fourth career quarterfinal at the US Open.
Marin Cilic - Cilic's primary problem is a brutal draw, as he'll face No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, who has fewer question marks currently surrounding him than anybody left in the draw. Nadal has a 6-2 career edge in their head-to-head and has lost just 16 games thus far while only needing to play six sets due to a second-round walkover.
David Goffin - Goffin is in excellent form, having just reached the finals in Cincinnati and dropping only one set through the first three rounds here. Meanwhile, Roger Federer has been off for most of the tournament, twice falling into a one-set hole despite not facing a seeded opponent yet. Given his recent level, the 15th-seeded Goffin should capitalize if Federer's error-prone WSU's continue in their fourth-round matchup.
Julia Goerges - Goerges needed a third-set tiebreak to get through the first round, but she's been cruising since, dropping just five games in each of her two subsequent matches. That includes a third-round win over No. 7 seed Kiki Bertens, so the 26th-seeded Goerges will bring plenty of momentum into her fourth-round matchup with Donna Vekic.
Elise Mertens - Mertens has cruised through the first three rounds, losing no more than three games in any set. She gets an ideal fourth-round matchup against 141st-ranked Kristie Ahn, so Mertens has a great opportunity to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since making a run to the Australian Open semis in 2018.
Karolina Pliskova - Pliskova was challenged by unseeded Ons Jabeur in the third round, winning 6-4 in the third set as Jabeur converted only five of 23 break points. The third seed will need to raise her level significantly if she wants to get through No. 16 Johanna Konta in Round 4. Konta's a tough out in Grand Slams, as she's trying to reach at least the quarterfinals for the third straight major tournament.
Belinda Bencic - Bencic will be well rested after getting a walkover over Anett Kontaveit in the third round. The Swiss 22-year-old already has a US Open quarterfinal appearance under her belt, and talent has never been the question for Bencic. With all the pressure on No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka, Bencic could be in position to launch a serious upset bid in the Round of 16.