When the draft came for the Swiss stage of Masters Shanghai, the second seed from Americas, G2 Esports G2 Esports North America Rank #5 icy Jacob Lange trent Trent Cairns valyn Jacob Batio JonahP Jonah Pulice leaf Nathan Orf , drew the third seed from Pacific, T1 T1 Korea Rank #3 stax Kim Gu-taek (김구택) Sayaplayer Ha Jeong-woo (하정우) Rossy Daniel Abedrabbo Carpe Lee Jae-hyeok (이재혁) iZu Ham Woo-ju (함우주) xccurate Kevin Susanto . This matchup has few connections on the outside, but for at least one player, it means a lot.

G2 versus T1 marks the first battle between old teammates. The core from G2 Esports, consisting of Jacob "valyn" Batio, Jonah "JonahP" Pulice, and Trent "trent" Cairns, used to play alongside T1 duelist Ha "Sayaplayer" Jeong-woo (하정우). They shared some amazing moments, and now they will face off against each other to start Shanghai.

Sayaplayer came into the Valorant scene on T1 but truly exploded into a star duelist on North American team The Guard The Guard Inactive JonahP Jonah Pulice trent Trent Cairns neT Michael Bernet valyn Jacob Batio tex Ian Botsch . Alongside valyn, JonahP, trent, and former G2 player Michael "neT" Bernet, they climbed from open qualification tournaments to the top of their region. When they went to Masters Reykjavík in early 2022, it looked like the region had another contender. Then The Guard lost to tough opposition, struggled regionally, and could not secure a slot in franchising.

Sayaplayer at home in 2023 Sayaplayer after joining T1 in 2023. (Image via Sayaplayer)

That marked the first change in the core, with Sayaplayer rejoining T1 for their franchised roster. The rest of The Guard roster stuck together, added Ian "tex" Botsch, and won Ascension, earning their chance to compete in tier one. Alas, with The Guard ceasing operations soon after, G2 Esports picked the roster up. The team did make more roster changes since then, but G2 have kept the same core and coach that won them Ascension in 2023.

Even from an entirely different region and time zone, Sayaplayer harbors no ill will towards his former teammates and still follows how they do in their respective competitions.

“I keep in touch with them once in a while through messaging, hearing the major updates through announcements,” Sayaplyer said. “I know what they've been doing, and it is great for them to make it back to an international tournament again.”

Like many others who kept their eyes on the draft for the starting games at Masters Shanghai, the reaction he had to the matchup was one of excitement, both to show how he has grown since previous events and to face off against some familiar foes.

"It was welcoming news for me," Sayaplayer said, "and it will be interesting to see what kind of unique plays they will use when they face off against us. Both G2 and T1 have outstanding players, but when we have momentum, we know we can focus. We both played okay in the regular season, but when we got into playoffs, we were able to show what we could do."

Heading into their respective regional playoffs in Stage 1, neither G2 nor T1 had a great record. G2 got into the Stage 1 playoffs via map differential at 3-3, while T1 made their playoffs with a losing 2-4 record. Alas, both teams upset other rosters that performed better than them in the regular season. G2 had to beat both Cloud9 Cloud9 North America Rank #8 Xeppaa Erick Bach runi Dylan Cade moose Kaleb Jayne vanity Anthony Malaspina OXY Francis Hoang and KRÜ Esports KRÜ Esports Latin America South Rank #4 keznit Angelo Mori Klaus Nicolas Ferrari Shyy Fabian Usnayo Melser Marco Eliot Machuca Amaro heat Olavo Marcelo , while T1 had to beat Team Secret Team Secret Asia-Pacific Rank #6 invy Adrian Jiggs Reyes JessieVash Jessie Cuyco Wild0reoo Brheyanne Christ Reyes 2ge James Goopio Jremy Jeremy Cabrera and Masters Madrid finalists Gen.G Gen.G Korea Rank #1 Munchkin Byeon Sang-beom (변상범) t3xture Kim Na-ra (김나라) Meteor Kim Tae-O (김태오) Lakia Kim Jong-min (김종민) Karon Kim Won-tae (김원태) .

T1 faces Gen.G again in VCT Pacific Stage 1 Sayaplayer and T1 rematch against Gen.G in the VCT Pacific 2024 Stage 1 playoffs. (Image via Riot Games)

While Sayaplayer remains dedicated to his first Valorant team, now alongside a new core that he plays as the star duelist, he did say that he would enjoy the idea of going back and reliving those old days on The Guard.

“I know they're great players and I've seen how they've grown across the year,” Sayaplayer said. “Maybe in the future, I'd love to play with them again.”

These two rosters both grew across the year, going from missing out on Madrid to going to Shanghai. Their trajectories led the teams to each other, alongside plenty of other hungry teams competing to be the best.

Sayaplayer knows FNATIC FNATIC Europe Rank #2 hiro Emirhan Kat Derke Nikita Sirmitev Boaster Jake Howlett Chronicle Timofey Khromov Alfajer Emir Ali Beder and EDward Gaming EDward Gaming China Rank #1 WoodAy1 Lin Weihong (林伟宏) ZmjjKK Zheng Yongkang (郑永康) nobody Wang Senxu (王森旭) CHICHOO Wan Shunji (万顺治) Smoggy Zhang Zhao (张钊) Haodong Guo Haodong (郭浩东) are two teams he would love to match up against with his squad, but he knows he has to focus on the first team in the schedule and cut any emotional ties when the barriers drop.

T1 will face off against G2 Esports to start Masters Shanghai.