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 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.
Six of the top eight seeds are still alive on the men's side, but fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and eighth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut both crashed out in five sets. The biggest favorites are taking care of business, while one of the four unseeded players remaining in the draw has a nice chance to keep his run going. Things stabilized on the women's side after a wild second round, with the higher seed winning 12 of the 14 third-round matches that involved at least one seeded player. Still, the chances of more high-profile upsets moving forward remain high.
Novak Djokovic - Djokovic got a wake-up call when he dropped the first set of the second round to Kyle Edmund, and he has picked up his level since, dropping just nine games the rest of the way against Edmund and only seven games against 28th-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff in Round 3. The top-seeded Serb remains the clear favorite for this title, and he should have few problems taking care of fourth-round opponent Pablo Carreno Busta. The 20th-seeded Spaniard has taken only one set off Djokovic in three previous meetings.
Daniil Medvedev - Medvedev was the favorite to make a second consecutive US Open final when the draw came out, and little has happened to change his status as the man to beat in the bottom half of the draw. The third-seeded Russian is yet to drop more than four games in a set, and he has arguably the least daunting fourth-round matchup of the contenders in his section. Medvedev will face unseeded American Frances Tiafoe in the Round of 16.
American Men's Tennis - Tiafoe is the last American hope in men's singles after Taylor Fritz came up short despite serving for the match against Denis Shapovalov while newcomer J.J. Wolf was overwhelmed by Medvedev in the third round. Especially considering the extra opportunities for local players to make the draw with some top European players opting out of participating, it's disappointing to see only one of 22 Americans make it to the second week, and likely none in the quarterfinals barring a major upset from Tiafoe. On the bright side, 11 American women made it to the third round, with four of those punching their tickets to the Round of 16.
Jordan Thompson - Thompson has cruised through the first three rounds, dropping just two sets while not getting pushed beyond four sets in any match. Conversely, his opponent Borna Coric is coming off consecutive five-set wins, which required a combined 8:55 of court time. While the 27th-seeded Coric showed tremendous perseverance to come back from 5-1 down in the fourth set and save six match points in his third-round win over No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, all the physical and mental stress of his last two matches will likely catch up to him at some point.
Victoria Azarenka - Whatever Azarenka did during the pause certainly worked, as she has regained her elite form of years past. After winning the Western & Southern Open in the lead-up to this event, Azarenka has dropped just 13 games through three rounds, winning all six sets she has played at the US Open. Despite being unseeded, Azarenka should be favored against 20th-seeded Karolina Muchova, who went to 9-7 in the third set tiebreak against Sorana Cirstea in the third round.
Petra Kvitova - Kvitova hasn't dropped a set through three rounds, and she'll be favored to take care of business against 93rd-ranked American Shelby Rogers in the Round of 16 after defeating Rogers' doubles partner Jessica Pegula in her previous match. The hard-hitting Czech has made at least the semifinals in every Grand Slam besides the US Open, and this could be the year she makes her deepest run at Flushing Meadows, though a potential quarterfinal matchup with 4th-seeded Naomi Osaka looms should both advance.
Serena Williams - Serena shook off a sluggish start against Sloane Stephens in the third round for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory, but she has now gone three sets in six of eight matches since play resumed, losing twice. One of those losses came to Maria Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open, as Serena failed to put away that match in the second set and dropped the third 6-1. If Williams' recent problems with creating separation from her opponents creep up again in their fourth-round rematch, the 15th-seeded Sakkari could come away with her second win over Williams in the last two weeks.
Tsvetana Pironkova - Pironkova's on a remarkable run in her first tournament action since 2017 Wimbledon. The 32-year-old mother hasn't dropped a set in her return from a three-year hiatus following the birth of her child, knocking off 10th-seeded Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza and 18th-seeded Donna Vekic along the way. Always considered a grass-court specialist, Pironkova made the semifinals at Wimbledon back in 2010 but came into this tournament with a career 8-11 record at the US Open. Conventional wisdom says her Cinderella run should come to a close against an in-form Alize Cornet, but the same could be said about each of Pironkova's previous matches here.