After coming close so many times this year, JDCR has finally returned to the top of a podium.
JDCR survived strong challenges from both Noroma and Kkokkoma to win the Korea Masters title on Sunday and claim the top spot on the TEKKEN World Tour global leaderboard. The victory was his first on this year's Tour.
The sight of JDCR winning Tour events was a common one in 2017, as the Korean star won eight events during last year’s campaign. The 2018 season is off to a much different start: he earned second-, third-, and fourth-place finishes to open the Tour, while five different players won the first five events of the year. JDCR made it six winners in six events on Sunday.
JDCR dominated pool play on Saturday, dropping just one game on his way to Sunday's Top 16. Once there, he scored 2-0 victories over Rangchu and Kkokkoma to reach the winners' final and a match with a familiar foe: Noroma.
Noroma announced his presence on the international stage in 2017 by beating JDCR in the grand final of last year's Korea Masters event. The Japanese star lost just two games on his way to the winners' final and looked well-poised to become a repeat champion, but JDCR and his Dragunov had other ideas. The Korean star jumped out to a 2-0 lead, then held on for the 3-1 win to reach the grand final and earn a measure of revenge against Noroma.
Kkokkoma was the last person standing between JDCR and victory. Kkokkoma earned the rematch after he scored a 3-1 win over Noroma in the losers’ final. Unlike their earlier clash, this one came down to the wire. Kkokkoma used his Kazumi to near-perfection in the first three games to take a 2-1 lead. The fourth game came down to the final round, but it was JDCR who clutched his way to a victory and forced a fifth game. The 2017 Evo champion rode this momentum through the final game and won the set 3-2, taking home the title.
Noroma ended the day in third place, while Breadman finished in fourth. Take, Noroma’s countryman, tied for fifth place alongside Rangchu, while Saint and Chanel rounded out the top eight.
Although JDCR was the tournament’s winner, Rangchu might have been the event’s MVP. Rangchu put on a clinic throughout the weekend with his Panda play, a character rarely seen in the later stages of tournaments. He scored victories over Speedkicks, Yuu, Aek, and Saint on his way to a memorable fifth-place finish.
Rangchu’s run highlighted the depth of the host nation’s talent when it comes to TEKKEN. Korea is arguably the world's strongest nation in the game, and it is hard to argue against that after Korean players made up 14 of the top 16 finishers this weekend. Many of the country's top players are unable to travel internationally as often as stars like JDCR and Saint, but this weekend proved that they are every bit as talented as the players more familiar to global audiences.
It was a rough weekend for most of the international players who tried their luck in Seoul. Doujin of The Philippines fell one win short of reaching the Top 16. Japanese stars Nobi (tied for 17th) and Yuu (tied for 33rd) also fell in pool play. American star WayGamble of the United States tied for 17th, while fellow countrymen Speedkicks and P.Ling, both of whom made last year's global finals, bowed out before the round of 32.
Not even Korean stars were immune from early defeats. JeonDDing failed to make it out of pool play for the first time this season. Help_Me, a former global finalist, failed to reach the round of 64. Even Saint got bit by the early loss bug, falling to Parktaro in his first match of the tournament.
The TEKKEN World Tour returns to the United States next weekend with a stop at Texas Showdown.