Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao has made the Summoner's Cup Finals twice in his career -- losing to Korean clubs SK Telecom T1 (2013) and Samsung White (2014) -- but this might be the best team he has ever played on if it can reach its full potential.
Royal Never Give Up was embarrassed by Chinese rival Edward Gaming in the domestic summer finals, but they have looked like a new team since arriving in San Francisco for the Worlds group stages, defeating North American champion Team SoloMid on opening day before running Splyce out of the building on Friday in a one-sided shellacking.
ESPN caught up with Uzi minutes after his team's blowout win over Europe's third-place side.
"I'm satisfied with our performance in the bottom lane today," Uzi said. "We've been getting good champion picks, and our jungler has been protecting us consistently.
"While doing scrimmages [in boot camp] we were under a lot of pressure. We were not performing very well during scrims. And if we're talking about which [western region] team [gave us the most trouble] it would be TSM."
When asked how he would compare the two teams and the team's bottom lanes, he said he really couldn't because of how the teams are structured. While Royal funnels a lot of their resources into the bottom lane, TSM are primarily based around protecting and getting the mid lane going.
"I think actually TSM will be the first team to get out of the group," he said. After the first two days, TSM is 1-1 compared to RNG's 2-0 with a win over the NA champion. "[TSM] is pretty strong overall, and I think we will go to the quarterfinals together with them."
Uzi's bottom lane support partner is no stranger to the Chinese prodigy. Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong was Uzi's opponent in his second Summoner's Cup Final as part of Samsung White two years ago. Although Uzi was able to pick up a win in the series, unlike in his 2013 final against SK Telecom T1, Mata eventually prevailed and was given the MVP award for the entire split. Chinese fans hope that under Mata's leadership, Uzi, Royal and China as a whole can finally win its first Summoner's Cup.
"From a team-play perspective, Mata is passionate about the game and has a lot of knowledge to share with others. He always gives us a lot of [good] insight on the game," said Uzi about his once-rival turned comrade. "[Personally] Mata is an interesting person. He is fun and cool. When we watch movies, he always makes [funny] noises. He gets really excited."
Two finals. Two second-place finishes. To end the interview, I asked him which team he'd like to see facing off with him for the Summoner's Cup if he is able to get to a third final.
"I wish to play against a team from NA or EU or [any] other region," said Uzi, laughing. "Probably not Korea."