Dota 2's reigning The International (TI) champions Tundra Esports will be without position 4 support player Martin "Saksa" Sazdov when they defend the Aegis of Champions in TI 2023 this October as the team announced on Thursday (7 September) that he will be taking an extended break due to health reasons.
While Tundra did not elaborate on what health issues forced Saksa to miss out on TI 2023, it is likely related to the player's mental health, something which he has struggled with throughout the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season.
We are sad to announce @saksadota will be taking an extended break due to health reasons and will not be on our active roster. We wish him all the healing and success possible.
Thank you, Martin, for playing a pivotal role in our TI victory. You’ll forever be a part of our… pic.twitter.com/l3uFrGHTJU
— TUNDRA (@TundraEsports) September 6, 2023
"The team has been amazing. We won TI so the result is there. It kind of happened because of all the good times we've had, all the hard work we've put in, and the gameplay we've showed together," Saksa said in a tribute video posted by Tundra alongside the announcement of his health break.
"I'm definitely happy joining this team and it's been even better than I imagined."
"We wish him all the healing and success possible. Thank you, Martin, for playing a pivotal role in our TI victory. You’ll forever be a part of our legacy and the Tribe," Tundra added.
With Saksa taking an extended break, Tundra is currently down a player heading into TI 2023, where the team will be looking to claim a second-straight world championship after earning a direct invite.
Tundra has yet to announce who will be replacing Saksa for this year's Dota 2 world championship tournament.
TI 2023 will be hosted across multiple weekends from 12 to 29 October in Seattle, the United States. This year's tournament also features a revamped format split into two distinct phases, called 'The Road to The International' and 'The International' itself.
Saksa struggles with mental health throughout 2023 DPC season
The announcement that Saksa will be missing out on TI 2023 caps off what seems to have been a mentally challenging 2023 DPC season for the player.
Saksa was forced to take an early exit from a total of four tournaments throughout the season. These include DreamLeague Season 19 in April — notably due to "burnout", DreamLeague Season 20 in June, followed by the Bali Major and Riyadh Masters 2023 in July.
Tundra has seen mixed results in the events that Saksa missed out on. The team finished fourth in DreamLeague Season 19, 9th-10th in DreamLeague Season 20, third in the Bali Major, and 9th-12th in the Riyadh Masters.
The gruelling competition in the DPC, especially in the cutthroat Western European regional league, seems to have taken its toll on Saksa.
After helping Tundra claim the Aegis of Champions in TI 2022 last October, Saksa and his teammates only had three months to rest before the 2023 DPC season kicked off in early January.
Outside of the DPC, Tundra has also played in the BetBoom Universe: Episode I - Comics Zone, DreamLeague Season 19, DreamLeague Season 20, and the Riyadh Masters.
Saksa is notably not the only player to miss out on competition this season due to health reasons.
Team Liquid's Samuel "Boxi" Svahn was forced to exit the Lima Major due to a health emergency, even if the team was set to play in the Major's upper bracket finals at the time. While Liquid was still able to reach the Grand Finals despite Boxi's absence, they lost the title to Gaimin Gladiators in a 0-3 sweep.
Nigma Galaxy's Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi elected to miss out on the 2023 DPC season altogether due to lingering health issues. With that said, he did return to the team as a stand-in for DreamLeague Season 19.
OG's Tommy "Taiga" Le also missed some time during the Summer Tour regional league in May after struggling with anxiety and depression. Héctor "K1" Rodríguez also took a mental health break in that same month.