As Fnatic and Royal Never Give Up square up to another ahead of the third quarterfinal of the 2017 World Championship, two titans will enter the Guangzhou Gymnasium.
Both of these two titans have chips on their shoulders, biting reminders of their career-long failures. They have made it through thick and thin, fighting on through all of the pain of high-level competition.
These are two of League of Legends eSports’ most-seasoned warriors, with years of experience on the battlefield: Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao will take to the stage in an epic duel of legends.
The Redemption of Rekkles
Rekkles has reached the turning point of his career. Two years ago, he was the star of Europe, after a tremendous Worlds performance. The Swede reached the semifinals with a win over EDward Gaming, marking Europe’s best Worlds run since season one.
Leading the charge was Rekkles, whose unwavering courage and strength carried Fnatic past the international competition. After his second straight Worlds appearance, Rekkles returned on top of the world, a hero of the EU region.
The Swedish all-star has struggled to reach the same heights since that moment. Fnatic’s 2016 season marked a sudden departure from their winning ways, as the famed organization missed out on Worlds for the first time.
For years, Rekkles had enjoyed nothing but steady improvement, climbing closer and closer to the top of EU, and eventually, the top of the world. Now, he tasted the bitter sting of loss for the first time.
The aftertaste of this failure continued into the start of the following season when Fnatic finished third in the LCS Playoffs. According to Rekkles, it was very nearly the end of his career.
At the 2017 World Championship, Europe’s golden boy is no longer on top of the world. Just to get here, he has had to fight through several gruelling stages of near-defeat.
In the play-in stage, Fnatic looked shaky, dropping a game to Vietnamese unknowns Young Generation. In groups, the Europeans fell even farther, losing their first four games. Only a miracle run through multiple tiebreakers managed to save them from utter collapse.
Rekkles has been transformed from the top dog of Europe to an underdog. Fnatic is not the favourites any longer, they gave up that title last year.
From the gauntlet, to the play-ins, to their unbelievable group stage heroics, it has taken a whole lot of sweat and tears for Rekkles to get this far.
Now that he is here, there is no slowing down. Rekkles is ready to reclaim his success from Worlds gone by; Rekkles is ready for redemption.
The Revitalization of Uzi
Uzi has long since defined China as a region. From his aggressive style in lane, to his exclusive fan club, Uzi represents both the in-game playstyle and out-of-game mindset of China and their fans.
For years, Uzi has starred for his team, as one of the best AD carries in China. Statistically, Uzi’s career is one of the most dominant in the world.
Up until this split, the RNG bot lane has consistently led his lane in nearly every category from CS to damage percentage. Uzi is the only Chinese player to make two World Championship finals, and one of the few in history to make the final twice in a row.
He will forever go down as a legend in his country and in League of Legends as a whole.
However, a large asterisk overshadows much of Uzi’s career. Despite his reputation as the face of the LPL, and one of the best players in Chinese history, Uzi has yet to accomplish one important feat.
In four years, Uzi has never won a championship, despite many finals appearances. In his storied career, he has made Worlds Finals twice, LPL finals three times, and even came second at NVIDIA Game Festival. Yet the legend of China has never been able to turn his skill into success, at least when it matters most.
Now is his chance to right the wrongs of his past. His team’s strong performance in the World Championship group stage entails good things for their future.
In front of his home crowd, it will be up to Uzi to rewrite the story of his career. On the biggest stage of his career, Uzi can finally become a champion, while the crowd roars his name in triumphant celebration.
If Uzi is ever to conquer his demons and surpass the mental block that has afflicted him throughout his career, it may have to be this event.
The stage is set for the head-to-head of two AD carry legends: Rekkles looking to complete his Cinderella story and gain redeem himself after falling to rock bottom in the past year, Uzi looking to break his curse and uphold his title as one of China’s greatest in front of a home crowd.
Both players are stars in their own right, famed for their unrivalled dominance, both in-region and out, both players are motivated by their past, desperately trying to outrun the shadows of their failures into glorious new heights… both players will fight to death under the lights of Guangzhou Gymnasium.