With the third round of Wimbledon 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.
As is often the case, the men's draw has stabilized after some early upsets, with the top players taking care of business in the third round. It's still Novak Djokovic against the field as he looks to stay perfect at the majors in 2021, but some of his most prominent challengers have more reasons to feel good about their chances than they did a few days ago. Meanwhile, the women's draw has a mix of familiar faces and players who have gotten hot at the right time. The top two seeds are finding their game after shaky starts, while a pair of players who won grass-court titles heading into Wimbledon are backing those results up with deep runs here and showing few signs of slowing down. In a tournament that's usually conducive to the big-serving attacking tennis played by most American men, the only one left is a rising young star who's at this stage for the first time. Just two American women remain in what's also been a disappointing showing thus far, but both should feel capable of going all the way given the exciting unpredictability we've seen in the women's game of late.
Roger Federer - Federer needed some luck to get out of the first round, but he's finding his footing at this tournament, both figuratively and literally as the grass firms up from all the action. Given the No. 6 seed's favorable immediate draw and the vulnerability No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev showed in dropping the first two sets to Marin Cilic in his third-round comeback win, Federer should now be viewed as a favorite to punch his ticket to a 14th career Wimbledon semifinal. He's not exactly cruising -- 29th-seeded Cameron Norrie put up a good fight in Federer's 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 third-round win -- but the sixth-seeded Federer will still be an overwhelming favorite in the Round of 16 against No. 23 seed Lorenzo Sonego.
Andrey Rublev - Rublev overcame a tricky third-round draw against Fabio Fognini — who came in with a 5-2 edge in their career head-to-head — with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory, putting the fifth-seeded Russian in position to reach his first Wimbledon quarterfinal. To do so, Rublev will have to beat unseeded Marton Fucsovics, whom Rublev has already faced four times in 2021 and is yet to drop a set. Things would likely get significantly trickier from there with Novak Djokovic looming in the quarterfinals, but Rublev would be playing with house rubles at that point.
Hubert Hurkacz - Hurkacz has been flying under the radar here and had struggled since his career-defining Masters 1000 win at the Miami Open, but the No. 14 seed is yet to drop a set through three rounds and has an attacking style that should translate well on this surface. He'll still be the underdog against Medvedev in what will be their first career meeting, but Hurkacz has been the more impressive player in this tournament heading into their Round of 16 clash.
Cristian Garin - Garin's in his first career Wimbledon Round of 16 and second straight Grand Slam fourth round after never previously reaching that stage, so he can hold his head high about this result. That being said, the 17th-seeded Chilean, who does his best work on the much slower clay-court surface, has almost no chance of advancing any further. Up next for Garin is a matchup with overwhelming title favorite Novak Djokovic, who has won all 17 of his Grand Slam matches in 2021 and cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win on hard courts in the only previous meeting between these two. Despite being in the top 20 himself, Garin would need to pull the upset of the year to take out Djokovic.
Sebastian Korda - Korda has already taken out No. 15 seed Alex de Minaur and No. 22 Daniel Evans, the latter much to the chagrin of the partisan Centre Court crowd. The American hasn't been overwhelmed by the moment and has the opportunity to gift himself an incredible present on his 21st birthday Monday against 25th-seeded Karen Khachanov. Khachanov just ended Frances Tiafoe's promising run here, but the Russian has a pedestrian 19-14 record this season (Korda's 21-9).
Madison Keys - Keys finally looks to be back to her old self, as she's into her first Grand Slam fourth round since 2019 and has an excellent opportunity in front of her to get to the quarterfinals and beyond. The 26-year-old American is coming off a convincing 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 13 seed Elise Mertens, and Keys will be the clear favorite in her next match against 66th-ranked veteran Viktorija Golubic. Having reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2015 and the semifinals or better at each of the other three slams in her career, the 23rd-seeded Keys has no shortage of second-week Grand Slam experience. Meanwhile, Golubic came into this tournament with a career Grand Slam record of 4-17.
Aryna Sabalenka - Sabalenka seemed to be headed for another Grand Slam disappointment when she dropped the first set to local favorite Katie Boulter in the second round, but the No. 2 seed roared back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory and carried that momentum into a dominant 6-0, 6-3 third-round win over Maria Camila Osorio Serrano. Despite her previous lack of success at Wimbledon, Sabalenka has the tools to excel on grass, including one of the top serves on the WTA tour. If bouncing back against Boulter finally got Sabalenka into the right headspace, she could be a candidate to win the title, much less take care of business against No. 18 seed Elena Rybakina in the Round of 16.
Ashleigh Barty - Barty looked off in each of her first two matches, but as many great players do, the No. 1 seed did enough to advance and has raised her level as the tournament unfolds. Despite some trouble closing it out, her 6-3, 7-5 win over Katerina Siniakova was Barty's highest-quality performance to date, and it should give her a confidence boost heading into a pivotal fourth-round encounter with Barbora Krejcikova, who has won 10 consecutive Grand Slam matches. Krejcikova was the more impressive player through two rounds here but showed some vulnerability in her 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-5 win over Anastasija Sevastova. With an excellent slice backhand at her disposal and elite point construction, Barty has the ability to replicate some of the formula Sevastova used to trouble Krecikova, but the 2019 French Open champion also has enough power to take charge of points in a way Sevastova couldn't.
Iga Swiatek - Swiatek's stock being down has nothing to do with her own play -- she just swept through Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 6-0 -- and everything to do with the player on the other side of the net. Ons Jabeur is seeded No. 21, but she has emerged as a top-five favorite for this title. After winning the Birmingham Classic on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, Jabeur dropped just eight games through two rounds, then overcame nerves both early in the first and late in the third to knock off 2017 Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in Jabeur's first career appearance on Centre Court. In their lone previous encounter, Swiatek beat Jabeur 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 on hard court in 2019, but both players have come a long way since then. Much like the Barty-Krejcikova match in the top half of the draw, the winner of this match could well find themselves playing for the trophy a couple matches later.
Liudmila Samsonova - Samsonova has a 10-match winning streak going on grass courts, winning Berlin after qualifying in before adding three consecutive wins at Wimbledon. That streak has included triumphs over the likes of Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka and Belinda Bencic in Berlin, and Samsonova added another significant victory with her 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 third-round result against Sloane Stephens. All the pressure will be on eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in her fourth-round match against the 65th-ranked Russian, but Samsonova has shown she can beat players of Pliskova's caliber on this surface.