With the second 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.
Things have largely stayed intact for the favorites on the men's side, as the top eight seeds all remain in the draw. Don't be surprised to see some of those guys go down in Round 3, though, as a number of top seeds face some tricky matchups. After a first round that largely went according to script, the upsets erupted in Round 2 of the women's draw, with seven of the top 13 seeds falling, including top-seeded Karolina Pliskova. All those big-name eliminations have created some nice opportunities for American women, 12 of whom remain in the draw (10 already in the third round and two whose second-round matches were in progress when the rain came).
Stefanos Tsitsipas - Tsitsipas couldn't have been too happy when the draw came out, with a tricky matchup against fellow next-gen star Borna Coric looming in the third round. While that matchup has indeed come to pass, Coric doesn't look capable of giving the 4th-seeded Tsitsipas too much trouble given his current form. The 27th-seeded Croatian was down two sets to one against clay-courter Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round, while Tsitsipas has steamrolled his first two opponents in straight sets. Looking ahead, Tsitsipas would get an unseeded opponent in the Round of 16 should he get through Coric.
Pablo Carreno Busta - After going the distance with Yasutaka Uchiyama in the first round, Carreno Busta got a much-needed routine victory in Round 2, steamrolling Mitchell Krueger 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just an hour and 33 minutes. His reward for that victory is another matchup with an unseeded player in 65th-ranked Ricardas Berankis, who has never made it past the third round at a Grand Slam. While a victory over Berankis would set up a daunting fourth-round matchup with Novak Djokovic, the 20th-seeded Spaniard can at least take solace in the slight vulnerability Djokovic showed in Round 2 when he dropped the opening set against Kyle Edmund.
Denis Shapovalov - The No. 12 seed hasn't looked bad, but Shapovalov's first two performances were nothing to write home about, either, as he needed four sets against both Sebastian Korda and Soon-woo Kwon. He took a medical timeout to get treatment on his hip against Kwon, and if Shapovalov's at less than 100 percent, he'll be hard-pressed to get by 19th-seeded American Taylor Fritz, who has reeled off six consecutive sets since dropping the first set of his first-round match against Dominik Koepfer.
Vasek Pospisil - Injuries have limited Pospisil throughout his career, but the 30-year-old Canadian is healthy and playing some of his best tennis. He's coming off a huge win over 25th-seeded countryman Milos Raonic, 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 in the second round, so Pospisil will be brimming with confidence ahead of a clash with No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA lost in the first round here in 2018 and 2019, and the Spaniard has never been past the fourth round at the US Open, so Pospisil has a serious chance to pull off the upset if he can maintain his form from the win over Raonic.
Marin Cilic - Cilic won this tournament back in 2014, and the 31st-seeded Croatian still has the skills necessary to pull an upset against No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem. Thiem's run to the Australian Open final earlier this year showed that he's capable of strong results on any surface, but there's no doubt that he's still much more comfortable on clay. He hasn't faced a top-100 opponent yet in this tournament after being blown out 6-2, 6-1 by Filip Krajinovic in the Western & Southern Open last week, so Thiem could be more vulnerable than it appears.
Madison Keys - Nobody has looked more dominant through two rounds than the seventh-seeded Keys, who has lost just five total games while spending under an hour on court in each match. This could be the breakthrough Grand Slam for the 2017 US Open finalist, as her draw has also opened up nicely. She faces unseeded Alize Cornet in the third round, followed by the winner of the match between 18th-seeded Donna Vekic and Tsvetana Pironkova before a possible quarterfinal clash with Serena Williams.
Jennifer Brady - Brady has carried over the momentum from claiming her first career title at the Top Seed Open in mid-August into the US Open, and now the No. 28 seed's draw has opened up as well. The big-hitting American has cruised through the first two rounds in Flushing Meadows, beating Anna Blinkova 6-3, 6-2 and CiCi Bellis 6-1, 6-2. The draw had put her on a collision course with No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova, but Brady will instead play unseeded Caroline Garcia in the third round after Garcia knocked out the top seed in Round 2. Should she beat Garica, Brady would draw the winner of 128th-ranked Ann Li and No.17 seed Angelique Kerber – who has not reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since winning Wimbledon in 2018.
Petra Martic - Martic has taken care of business and watched many potential obstacles fall by the wayside, as there are no top-16 seeds left standing between the 8th-seeded Croatian and her first Grand Slam semifinal. She reached the fourth round here last year and is finding success at Flushing Meadows once again, with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Tereza Martincova followed by a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko. Martic's third-round opponent will be 102nd-ranked Varvara Gracheva, with the winner set to face either Aliaksandra Sasnovich or No. 23 seed Yulia Putintseva.
Maria Sakkari - Sakkari's career is definitely on the upswing, but she has been struggling to advance in this tournament, beating Stefanie Voegele 7-5 in the third in Round 1 and dropping the opening set to Bernarda Pera in Round 2. The No. 15 seed will need to step up significantly if she wants to beat 22nd-seeded American Amanda Anisimova in what will be one of only four (or five, depending on how the rained-out matches finish) third-round matches between two seeded women. The 19-year-old Anisimova already has more big match experience than Sakkari, as her run to the semifinals of the 2019 French Open dwarfs Sakkari's best Grand Slam result (fourth round – 2020 Australian Open).
Jessica Pegula - Pegula is another American who has been in strong form since the restart. She got to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open, beating three players that are seeded in this tournament along the way, and has opened the US Open with a pair of hard-fought three-set wins over Marie Bouzkova and Kirsten Flipkens. The daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula will now set her sights on upsetting No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova, who has had the least success at the US Open out of the four Grand Slams – it's the only one in which Kvitova has never made the semifinals or better.