With the second round of the 2022 Australian 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.
Seeded players went 19-3 in the second round on the men's side, setting up a third round full of exciting matchups. The arrow's pointing up for a trio of male next gen contenders, but a couple of their highly seeded contemporaries could be in trouble. All of the teenagers that came in with high expectations on the women's side crumbled under the weight of those expectations, but a couple other teens are making names for themselves here. One of those youngsters will have an opportunity to knock off a top contender in the third round, while another just notched a major upset win and will now face an American who's hoping to repeat her previous success at this tournament. Most of the top title favorites escaped the second round unscathed, but one in particular has seen her draw go from daunting to very doable.
Alexander Zverev - The early rounds of Grand Slams used to be an adventure for Zverev, but the days of struggling with confidence and barely beating unseeded opponents are in the past for the third-seeded German. He took his best-of-five game to a new level at last year's US Open and has kept right on rolling in 2022, sweeping his first six sets in this tournament ahead of a third-round match with qualifier Radu Albot. Albot just doesn't have the weapons to trouble Zverev, who should cruise into the Round of 16, putting him one step closer to capturing that elusive first Grand Slam title.
Stefanos Tsitsipas - Sure, Tsitsipas' second-round win over Sebastian Baez could have been more convincing, but he stayed the course despite converting just four of 18 break points and ultimately came away with a 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 victory. While the No. 4 seed isn't playing his best tennis at the moment, Tsitsipas has a nice opportunity to play his way into form. A potential third-round pitfall against three-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov was avoided when Benoit Paire upset the Bulgarian, setting up a comfortable draw for Tsitsipas. After losing to Paire as a youngster back in 2017, Tsitsipas has dominated their three subsequent meetings, dropping just 12 games in six straightforward sets.
Jannik Sinner - Sinner has done nothing to endanger his status as a popular dark-horse title pick here. The 20-year-old Italian cruised through both Joao Sousa and Steve Johnson in straight sets, while the draw has opened up around him. Rather than facing Andy Murray in the third round, the No. 11 seed will take on 120th-ranked Taro Daniel, while the winner of No. 32 Alex de Minaur and unseeded Pablo Andujar would await Sinner in the Round of 16, as his section of the draw was cleared out by the late withdrawal of No. 8 seed Casper Ruud (ankle).
Denis Shapovalov - Shapovalov has experienced wild swings in level throughout the first two rounds, which has resulted in nearly eight hours spent on court. He escaped in four sets against Laslo Djere in the first round, winning tiebreaks in the first and fourth after Djere served for both sets. After that adventure, the No. 14 seed's 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-2 second-round win over Soonwoo Kwon was much too close for comfort. Shapovalov was able to claw his way back after gifting opponents leads in the first two rounds, but doing so will be much more challenging in the third round against 23rd-seeded Reilly Opelka due to Opelka's serving prowess. The 6-foot-11 American has dropped serve just once through two matches while getting through both in straight sets, so Opelka will also have a significant edge in freshness against Shapovalov.
Carlos Alcaraz - Alcaraz made the leap from top prospect to second-week slam contender with a run to the quarterfinals at last year's US Open, which included a thrilling five-set win over Tsitsipas. Seeded No. 31 here, the 18-year-old Spaniard is ready to take down another top-10 foe in Matteo Berrettini. While Alcaraz blew his first two opponents off the court, losing just 15 games in six sets, Berrettini has looked vulnerable, dropping a set in each of his first two matches.
Simona Halep - The second round couldn't have unfolded any better for Halep. The two-time Grand Slam champion eviscerated Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 6-0, while the rest of her draw opened up more beautifully than Halep could have hoped for. The top-seeded players in Halep's path in each of the next three rounds all suffered upset defeats, as (17) Emma Raducanu, (3) Garbine Muguruza and (6) Anett Kontaveit all crashed out. Raducanu's loss to 98th-ranked Danka Kovinic was arguably the most shocking of the three, as the 27-year-old journeywoman ended the teen sensation's eight-match Grand Slam winning streak, aided by Raducanu's issues with a blister. No other top-18 seeds remain on No. 14 Halep's path to the semis, which starts with her third-round match against Kovinic.
Marketa Vondrousova - Vondrousova has taken care of business with a pair of straight sets victories thus far, and the No. 31 seed has a great opportunity ahead of her in the third round and beyond. While she'd be a clear underdog against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka under normal circumstances, Vondrousova should be viewed as the favorite in this match due to Sabalenka's serving struggles. Despite facing two players ranked no higher than 100, Sabalenka has needed three sets to get through each match while coughing up a tournament-high 31 double faults. It's easy to forget that Vondrousova's still only 22 years old herself since she burst onto the scene early with a run to the 2019 French Open final, and her subsequent silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics a few months ago showed that she's also capable of making a deep run on hard courts. Should Vondrousova knock off Sabalenka, she would face an unseeded opponent in the next round with a quarterfinal berth on the line.
Danielle Collins - Collins' best Grand Slam result to date was a semifinal run at the 2019 Australian Open, and the 27th-seeded American is gearing up for another deep run down under. She had been slated to face Kontaveit in the third round, but the No. 6 seed was upset by Clara Tauson. Collins won her only previous encounter with the Dane in straight sets at the 2020 French Open, and while the 19-year-old Tauson has undoubtedly grown her game since then, Collins still has a substantial edge in big-match experience and accomplishments on the pro tour.
Elina Svitolina - Svitolina stumbled in the second round against Harmony Tan, but an injury to her unseeded opponent helped the 15th-seeded Ukrainian build a 5-1 third-set lead before Tan called it quits. The level Svitolina showed in that match wasn't nearly high enough for her to get by third-round opponent Victoria Azarenka, who is arguably the toughest draw a top-16 seed could have had at this stage. Azarenka has dropped just seven games through two matches and is one of the best hard-court players on tour, having captured the Australian Open title twice in her career. Svitolina has faced Azarenka four previous times in her career and lost each match.
Marta Kostyuk - We've seen no shortage of teenagers break through on the women's tour in recent years, and Kostyuk could be the next to do so. The 19-year-old is ranked 66th, but she'll almost certainly climb into the top 30 this year if she stays healthy. A third-round matchup with No. 8 seed Paula Badosa presents an opportunity for Kostyuk to announce her arrival as a player to watch out for at Grand Slams. Badosa has looked fantastic through two rounds, but so has Kostyuk, who hasn't dropped a set and is coming off a win over No. 32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo.