"Touched by a Champion," now streaming on Tennis Channel Plus? A brief interaction between Aryna Sabalenka and Rafael Nadal on the Roland Garros practice courts this week had fans on social media humorously wondering if Sabalenka is pre-ordained to win the 2024 title.

It all started in less than five seconds, with an innocuous clip posted by a Sabalenka-centric fan account on X, formerly Twitter. In it, Nadal and Sabalenka can be seen passing each other as they trade shifts on the practice court. As the 14-time Roland Garros champion walks by Sabalenka, who greets him with a smile, he taps her on the shoulder.

"Blessed to win?" the account queried in its post. And after the clip was viewed more than 230,000 times, Sabalenka herself chimed in.

"Ahahahah let’s see," the world No. 2 wrote, alongside several laughing emojis and crossed fingers.


Superstitions aside, Sabalenka has reason to feel confident heading into the clay-court major, where she is seeded No. 2. Twelve months ago, Sabalenka was a point away from reaching the final in Paris, before Karolina Muchova authored an all-time comeback to win their semifinal, saving match point in the process. It was a loss that stuck with Sabalenka, but one she also said she'd come back stronger from.

A year later, with another major title under her belt, Sabalenka has said that she's betting on herself, even though she lost in the final of both Madrid and Rome to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek. The projected resumption of their rivalry will likely be the chief story of the women's event in Paris.

"Even though I lost these two finals, I mean, I never focus on the past," Sabalenka said after losing in Rome. "No matter how many times I lose to the player, I know anyway if I'll be there, if I'll be fighting, I'll be focusing on myself, I know that I can get that win. I'm going there with the confiden[ce] that I can do well there."


"Being No. 2 seeded, it's tough to call yourself 'underdog,'" she continued. "I'm definitely not the favorite probably there. But at the same time I do feel that I can actually go for it. It's 50/50, you know? But I prefer to be underdog.

"I really hope I'm going to make it to the final and I really hope I'll be able to get that win, if it's Iga or not. It's an amazing tournament. It's a Grand Slam. I'll just go there and fight for every point and see what happens after the tournament."