Standing around 6’8” [2.03m] Martin ‘Saksa’ Sazdov is one of the tallest men in all of esports, dwarfing many of his opponents in both real life and in game skill. At 24, he may not be seen as a Dota wonder kid like his new team-mates at OG, Topson and SumaiL, but the veteran player brings plenty of expertise from his journeyed career.
Over the last five years he's played at multiple TIs, including a second place finish at TI6 and has won multiple top level tournaments, including some Dota Pro Circuit events, all while jumping from team to team. He’s played on more than 10 rosters in the last five years and found pretty regular success on the teams that have stuck together longer than a month or two.
But now he's joining OG in what he hopes will be a very successful long run with the team. Rarely has he joined an organisation with the prestige and success in the world of Dota as OG and when the offer came in to join there was no doubt in his mind that this was where he wanted to be. After all, it's pretty hard to turn down the most successful Dota team of the past few years.
“I've had a few other offers this season,” says Saksa. “But nothing was really as lucrative as playing for OG, after all they won two TIs in a row for a reason. So joining OG was pretty much a no-brainer for me.”
Joining an org like OG has always been a goal of Saksa’s, dreaming of being able to do so since the early days of his career. His time in the Dota world has seen him play on more unsponsored teams than most, relying on results to bring in some money or potentially attract a sponsor. Early on in his career he thought that joining such an org might not be possible, but he kept his focus and has now ended up with the two-time TI champs.
“I guess back then [at the start of my career] I didn't really expect to play for team such as OG,” says Saksa. “It's always been my goal to play for the best team possible, but the chances seemed small at the time. I would tell a younger version to just focus on himself and try to be the best possible player and team-mate you can be, if you do that, getting a good team and achieving results will come on their own.”
With Saksa no stranger to joining a new team, it’s no surprise to hear that the process of joining OG has been smooth for him and that he and the rest of his team have been getting on well, even if they haven’t had much of a chance to play together just yet. But he's sure that when they do start to play together the chemistry will be almost instant, with so many superstars on the same roster – MidOne also joined the team this week – even if it takes time to figure out how best to play, the individual skill of each player will be more than enough to win quite a few games.
“The transition [to OG] has been pretty smooth, I like everybody on the team and they've all been very supportive and welcoming, so overall I'm very happy with how things are right now,” says Saksa. “I was approached by Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein at first; I thought they were probably going to go with the same roster [as last season] to TI 10, so I was pretty surprised and I’m happy they wanted me on their team. On paper this is probably the best roster I've played with and I'm hoping that’s how it’s going to be in real games and tournaments as well.”
Winning TI10 is the goal for all of us this season
Unlike the other new additions to the OG roster there's no need for Saksa to adjust to a new position. He's proven over the past few years that he's one of the best support players in the world and while his plays in game may not be as flashy as some others, anyone with a deep understanding of how Dota works will be able to tell you just how impressive Saksa is during a game. Combine that with the legendary support skill of N0tail and you're looking at one of the most deadly support duos in all of Dota.
“I will be playing 4 position,” reveals Saksa. “Regarding my other support player, I probably couldn't ask for a better guy to play with. N0tail is one the most skilled position fives, a very easy person to play with. He brings out the best in his team-mates and his results speak for that. Since we are a new team we're probably going to need some time to get on the same page and whatnot, but it should be pretty easy with the players on this team.”
Joining a team with such a stacked roster and such a big history of success does bring some pressure. The team will be expected to easily make it to TI10 to defend the Aegis of Champions, despite not playing the first two Majors of the season and then they'll be expected to at least make it to the latter stages of the competition. Saksa of course has similar goals to these expectations, but he has the mindset of a pro and doesn’t let that bother him.
“Winning TI10 is the goal for all of us this season,” says Saksa. “But I also don't like to put expectations on myself, so for the rest of the season I'll just try to take it all game by game, have fun along the way and not try to put unnecessary pressure on myself.”
Winning TI 10 would be the ultimate goal for Saksa, who's worked incredibly hard over the years to get to this stage. Right now it feels like all his hard work is paying off and he has the best chance yet to walk away from the season as a world champion and avenge the heartbreaking loss he suffered in the final of TI6 against Wings.
There's just one more thing you should know about Saksa: if you do have the honour of meeting him, maybe don’t make a joke about his height. You can guarantee he has heard them all before.
“I've heard a lot of bad height jokes over the years,” jokes Saksa. “But I guess the most common one and probably the worst one would be ‘How's the weather up there?’”