We talk to YEKINDAR about Virtus.Pro's potential as a team now with FL1T on the squad, before looking ahead to their tournament path that lay in front of them and their chances of getting to the grand finals and hoisting the trophy up.
Virtus.Pro have made no roster moves coming into 2022, having last replaced Sanjar "SANJI" Kuliev with Evgeniy "FL1T" Lebedev in October of 2021. Their first event of the year, ESL Challenger #48, was a complete success: they claimed the trophy without dropping a single map, defeating the likes of FURIA Gaming along the way. Their commitment to this roster and the leadership of Dzhami "JAME" Ali continues to pay off, and Virtus.Pro could ride their momentum to a very deep run in Katowice.
When asked to compare the 2021 Virtus.Pro roster with the current, star rifler Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis said:
YEKINDAR: I think in that line-up with SANJI, our level at Katowice was pretty high - 80% of our potential, maybe 85%. This year, with FL1T, already our potential is rising up. We feel comfortable playing with him and we have had enough time to prepare and win this tournament. It's all going to depend on our own psychology, mental state, and individual skill that we have at the moment.
Sure enough, YEKINDAR and his team came prepared on the opening day, and walked away with the win. They were placed against the Copenhagen Flames - who looked to be among the very best of the play-in stage teams - and defeated them in a swift two-map series that the Flames were never quite able to find their footing in. Everybody on Virtus.Pro was performing as required to make the win happen, with notable performances from YEKINDAR in the first map and the duo of JAME and FL1T in the second.
With their win, Virtus.Pro proceeds through the upper bracket where they will next face the Ninjas in Pyjamas. Rocky form from the Ninjas during the play-in stage seems to have dissipated, as the Swedish squad was able to take down Gambit Esports in a 2-1 game to kick off the group stage. Virtus.Pro and NIP have not played one-another since IEM Cologne 2021, and both squads have made roster moves since then. JAME and his teammates looked impressive to kick off Katowice, and they could be among the first to book their place in the Spodek - provided they can take out the Ninjas first.