With the first round of the French 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.
A men's draw that was already looking extremely unbalanced – with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all in the same half of the draw – got even more so when No. 4 seed Dominic Thiem shockingly let a two-set lead slip away against Pablo Andujar, further opening up the wide open bottom half. Thiem's loss was far from the only early shocker on the men's side, and the women's draw also featured plenty of early upsets, in addition to a pair of high-profile withdrawals; No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka withdrew to avoid doing post-match press conferences, while attending a press conference proved to be 11th-seeded Petra Kvitova's undoing, as she injured her ankle while leaving one. While it has already turned into a disappointing tournament for many prominent names, their exits have created opportunities for some less-heralded players to step up, while other stars are taking care of business as expected. A rapidly ascending teenager is among the men who have stood out thus far, while a former finalist in the women's draw here could be on the verge of another deep run.
Lorenzo Musetti - He's been overshadowed by fellow 19-year-old Jannik Sinner as Italian tennis appears on the verge of hitting its golden age, but Musetti's an excellent young player in his own right. With elite court coverage and a beautiful one-handed backhand, Musetti's built for success on clay. No. 13 seed David Goffin found that out the hard way in the opening round, as Musetti served him a bagel in a 6-0, 7-5, 7-6 (3) win. Musetti has a great opportunity to keep advancing in the second round against Yoshihito Nishioka, who has never been past the second round at Roland Garros, and he could easily triumph over either 21st-seeded Alex de Minaur or Italian countryman Marco Cecchinato in the third round. Don't be surprised to see Musetti's name penciled in across from Novak Djokovic in the Round of 16.
Rafael Nadal - This tournament is certainly Nadal's to lose given that he already has 13 French Open titles under his belt, but he was staring at perhaps his most difficult draw ever coming in. Not only has he cleared the first hurdle with ease, beating hard-hitting 21-year-old Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3), but Nadal also saw some potentially tricky opponents fall by the wayside. Chasing down Hugo Gaston's drop shots would have offered a tiring and perhaps challenging second-round experience for Nadal, but Gaston — who beat Stan Wawrinka before taking Dominic Thiem to five sets in the Round of 16 at last year's French Open — lost to Richard Gasquet, against whom Nadal has a 16-0 career head-to-head edge. Potential third-round challenger Lorenzo Sonego, who just beat Thiem and Andrey Rublev a few weeks ago and was seeded No. 26, lost to Lloyd Harris. Speaking of Rublev, the No. 7 seed looked like a legitimate potential threat to Rafa's title defense in the quarterfinals here after beating Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo, but the Russian crashed out in the first round against Jan-Lennard Struff. A massive fourth-round challenge could still await Nadal in the form of Sinner, but Sinner will need to raise his game substantially just to get there after barely surviving a 6-1, 4-6, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4 five-setter against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Cristian Garin - Garin's nearly universally viewed as the least impressive player in the top 25, but he has a golden opportunity to change that perception. The 22nd-seeded Chilean props up his ranking by winning small clay-court tournaments, but his only foray past the second round in Grand Slam play came at last year's French Open, where Garin reached the third round. One of the first round's most stunning upsets has him in position to go even deeper here on his favorite surface. No. 16 seed and potential third-round opponent Grigor Dimitrov was cruising along at 6-2, 6-4, 5-1 and 0-40 on Marcos Giron's serve in the first round, but the American battled back to take the next nine games before Dimitrov retired with an injury. If Garin can get to the Round of 16 for the first time, he could have a shot at an upset against No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, who's just 1-4 at Roland Garros after his first-round win. Next up for Garin is 119th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.
Canadian Tennis - Canadian tennis has been flying high recently, but it crashed and burned in the first round of this tournament, much like the Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A pair of big names didn't even make the trip, as both Denis Shapovalov (shoulder) — who had been playing some of his best tennis recently — and Milos Raonic (undisclosed) withdrew from the draw. The disappointment of their absence was compounded by Felix Auger-Aliassime's 7-3, 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-4 first-round upset loss to Andreas Seppi, promptly ending Canadian hopes on the men's side. Top Canadian woman Bianca Andreescu was also upset in the opening round by Tamara Zidansek, but at least the country's fans can still pin their hopes on Leylah Fernandez in the women's draw.
Pedro Martinez - In a tournament that's already seen no shortage of shocking upsets, Martinez will be looking to add another one by striking out No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Martinez surprisingly took care of up-and-coming American Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, and the 103rd-ranked Spaniard will have nothing to lose against Tsitsipas, who has had an excellent clay-court season but has lost in the third round or earlier four times in his last six Grand Slams played.
Marketa Vondrousova - Vondrousova hasn't accomplished much of note since reaching the French Open final in 2019, but the draw's opening up nicely for her to make another deep run at Roland Garros. The No. 20 seed held up her end of the bargain in the first round with a late surge to beat Kaia Kanepi — who's always a tough out at Grand Slams — 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Potential third-round opponent and No. 16 seed Kiki Bertens lost to Polona Hercog, while No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka withdrew in the aftermath of the blowback of her decision to skip post-match press conferences, leaving 35th-ranked Paula Badosa as the highest-ranked player standing between Vondrousova and the quarterfinals. The 21-year-old Vondrousova can't take any match for granted, but she'll be heavily favored against 149th-ranked Harmony Tan in the second round.
Belinda Bencic - A few spots north of Vondrousova in the draw, Bencic also took care of business against a tricky first-round opponent and watched her draw open up. The No. 10 seed blew out 2020 French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska 6-0, 6-3. Meanwhile, No. 19 seed Johanna Konta lost to Sorana Cirstea and sixth-seeded Andreescu fell to Zidansek, eliminating Bencic's potential third-round and fourth-round opponents. Now, 29th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova is the only seed standing between Bencic and the quarterfinals, and Bencic is the highest seed left in her section all the way until the semis with all the upsets around her. The 2019 US Open semifinalist faces a tricky second-round opponent in Daria Kasatkina, though Kasatkina is clearly more comfortable on hard courts. The Russian has won two hard-court titles this year but is yet to win two matches in a row on clay in 2021, this being her fifth tournament on the surface.
Elena Rybakina - Rybakina's draw got a whole lot more open with Kvitova having pulled out, as 82nd-ranked Nao Hibino and 34-year-old Elena Vesnina, who's playing her first Grand Slam event in three years, are the only players standing between the 21st-seeded Rybakina and the Round of 16. First-round opponent Elsa Jacquemot didn't trouble the 21-year-old Rybakina, who won 6-4, 6-1 in her opening match
Karolina Pliskova - Pliskova got through Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4 in the opening round, but her big serve is neutralized on clay, and she's likely still reeling mentally from an embarrassing 6-0, 6-0 loss to Iga Swiatek at the Italian Open in her last match prior to this tournament. Her draw's also a tough one, as 2018 French Open finalist Sloane Stephens awaits in the second round, with reigning Australian Open semifinalist Karolina Muchova likely to face the winner in the third round. Stephens has a 3-1 career head-to-head edge against Pliskova.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich - Sasnovich is a solid yet unspectacular player, as she's attempting to reach the third round for the sixth time in 13 Grand Slams since the start of the 2018 season. Her Belarusian countrywoman and second-round opponent Aryna Sabalenka has also played every major tournament in that span but reached the third round only four times. Seeded third, Sabalenka has been excellent outside of Grand Slam play but seems to have a mental block at the majors, where she's just 15-13 lifetime with no quarterfinal appearances. All the pressure will be on Sabalenka against Sasnovich.