After being canceled in 2020, Wimbledon is back in 2021. With the first round of the tournament 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.
The first round stretched well into Day 3 due to the rain-soaked conditions, allowing a few players to get a leg up by finishing their matches on time. Wide open draws already without the likes of Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Simona Halep opened up even further with a top-five seed exiting on both sides (Stefanos Tsitsipas and Bianca Andreescu). Additionally, one 39-year-old legend benefited from some injury luck while another exited early due to injury. All told, the men's title is still Novak Djokovic's to lose, but there are opportunities aplenty for some talented youngsters to make names for themselves, including an American with a favorable draw. The women's draw is open as can be, providing the chance for some big-name players to conjure up some of their past major-winning magic, or to finally break through at a Grand Slam for the first time.
Novak Djokovic - Djokovic is the prohibitive favorite here with Rafael Nadal out of the draw, and things are falling into place for him to minimize the physical and mental wear and tear from winning the French Open just over two weeks ago. Taking advantage of his early time-slot and roof availability on the main courts, Djokovic got through two rounds before much of the draw finished Round 1. He lost the opening set to Jack Draper in the first round but has lost just 14 combined games to Draper and dangerous second-round foe Kevin Anderson in six subsequent sets. Neither Andreas Seppi nor Denis Kudla should trouble Djokovic in the third round.
Matteo Berrettini - Berrettini came into this tournament with what looked like a tricky draw, but he's quickly watched most of his potential early hurdles fall by the wayside. While Berrettini got through Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, the three other seeds he could have faced before the quarterfinals lost, as potential third-round opponent and No. 28 seed John Isner was joined by (12) Casper Ruud and (20) Aslan Karatsev in exiting early. The seventh-seeded Italian will be a major second-round favorite against 139th-ranked lucky loser Botic Van de Zandschulp, and veteran Kei Nishikori now stands as Berrettini's biggest potential threat prior to the quarterfinals.
Sebastian Korda - After a disappointing first-round exit at Roland Garros, Korda's well positioned to make a run at Wimbledon. The best young prospect in American men's tennis grinded out a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) over No. 15 seed Alex de Minaur in the first round, while fellow American Frances Tiafoe took out third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the same section, leaving No. 22 Daniel Evans as the highest seed standing between Korda and his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Korda will need to take things one match at a time, but he'll be the clear favorite in his second-round clash with 156th-ranked Antoine Hoang.
Roger Federer - Federer was on the ropes in the opening round and trailing two sets to one before an Adrian Mannarino injury bailed him out in a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-2, ret. victory. While this veteran Frenchman couldn't get the job done, a more accomplished one in Richard Gasquet will certainly believe he can topple Federer after watching Mannarino control play, despite Federer's 18-2 head-to-head edge against Gasquet. Even if he gets through Gasquet, the 6th-seeded Federer didn't look like a player who can compete for the title here, even given the depleted field.
Pedro Martinez - Martinez has performed well in Grand Slams this year, getting to the third round in Australia and knocking off Korda in the first round of the French Open before falling to Tsitsipas. He knocked off Stefano Travaglia 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round here and will have a clear edge in freshness for the second round against No. 12 seed Gael Monfils, who needed multiple days to beat Christopher O'Connell 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4. Given the physicality of Monfils' matches, the 24-year-old Spaniard has to like his chances of outlasting the 35-year-old Frenchman.
Karolina Pliskova - Pliskova came into this tournament having dropped three consecutive matches, but the No. 8 seed should gain plenty of confidence from her 7-5, 6-4 first-round win over French Open semifinalist Tamara Zidansek. The big-serving Czech beat second-round opponent Donna Vekic by the same score in the opening round of the French Open before enduring her three-match losing streak, so Pliskova has to fancy her chances of getting through Vekic again here. Beyond that, Pliskova will be happy to see a couple of dangerous potential opponents in her section knocked out. Potential third-round opponent and 2019 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Alison Riske was sent home by Tereza Martincova, while potential Round of 16 foe and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost to Sloane Stephens.
Angelique Kerber - Kerber's results have been trending down since she won her third career Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2018, but her history of success both in Grand Slams and on grass make the 25th-seeded German a formidable opponent here. She won the Bad Homburg Open on grass last week, and Kerber stretched her winning streak to six matches with a 6-4, 6-3 first-round win over Nina Stojanovic. She'll be favored in the second round against Sara Sorribes Tormo, who had to wait until Wednesday to play her first-round match due to the rain while Kerber played under the roof Tuesday on Court 1. More importantly for Kerber's chances of making a deep run, sixth seed and potential third-round opponent Serena Williams had to retire in the first set of her first-round match due to a knee injury, leaving Kerber with an easy path to a potential Round of 16 clash with (9) Belinda Bencic or (20) Coco Gauff.
Iga Swiatek - Swiatek doesn't have much grass-court experience, but the Polish 20-year-old is a fast learner who feels she can play freely here without the burden of massive expectations. The seventh-seeded Swiatek won 6-4, 6-4 over Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round and has a comfortable second-round draw against 36-year-old Vera Zvonareva. The 96th-ranked Russian is well past her heyday, having last made a Grand Slam singles third round at Wimbledon in 2014.
Karolina Muchova - Muchova didn't have any trouble in the opening round, taking out Shuai Zhang 6-3, 6-3, but the 19th-seeded Australian Open semifinalist faces a brutal draw up ahead. Second-round opponent Camila Giorgi has compact strokes that work well on grass, and she's capable of beating anybody when her timing's right, which Giorgi illustrated in her run to the 2018 Wimbledon quarterfinals. Should she get through Giorgi, Muchova would likely draw 16th-seeded French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round, and Pavlyuchenkova has a 2-0 head-to-head edge against Muchova in addition to being in the best form of her career. After all that, Muchova would be projected to face No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina – against whom Muchova's also 0-2 – in the Round of 16.
Katie Boulter - Boulter will have the home crowd behind her as a Brit and is coming off a solid grass-court result in Nottingham, where she won three matches and was up a set in the fourth when she retired. All the pressure will be on second-round opponent Aryna Sabalenka, who is seeded second here thanks to outstanding results outside of majors but continues to struggle at Grand Slams. Sabalenka's just 17-14 at Grand Slams without a quarterfinal appearance, and her 2-3 Wimbledon record suggests the 23-year-old Belarusian isn't all that comfortable on grass.