He started his run in a dominant way, taking two 3-0 wins against the Terran players Kelazhur and INnoVation. His first map loss of the tournament happened against Dark in the semi-final, the series still ended 3-1 for Joona and the Finn was looking unstoppable when going into the finals.
There he faced Stats, one of the best Protoss players in the world. Things started off a bit shaky as Stats took a quick 2-0 lead, but Serral was able to claw his way back and tie the series to 2-2. After losing one more map Serral managed to take the last two and claim one more title to his name, and the biggest achievement of his career.
"Obviously I was slightly worried after being 0-2 down but luckily there was a couple minute break after that. I think as long as you acknowledge that there isn’t a whole lot you can do about the earlier games it is pretty easy to stay calm and focus on the coming."
- Joona "Serral" Sotala
By winning GSL. vs The World he became the first foreigner ever to win a GSL. Korea has so long been the dominant region in StarCraft2, so for someone to take a title on their soil is truly a massive feat. At the same time, Serral became one of the ten players to have collected a "triple crown" - a championship title on every region. His performance left no doubts about him having his rightful place among the StarCraft 2 elite.
We were able to interview the Champion about his victory, practice and plans for the future:
Congratulations! Now that you’re home, and things have returned back to normal, how you feel about your GSL vs the World win?
"Right now I feel like just after every win! So extremely good I also think this win is a very good sign for the upcoming Blizzcon."
How have you celebrated your victory, and what kind of welcome did you have when you arrived back in Finland?
"There were some people waiting at the airport which was cool. Otherwise haven’t really been celebrating too much except for the cake my mom bought!"
We saw some incredible games from you this weekend, and a nail-biting finals against Stats. Were you worried at any point during the series and how did you manage to remain calm?
"I feel like the series with stats was extremely messy and he managed to pull me out of my comfort zone many times. Obviously I was slightly worried after being 0-2 down but luckily there was a couple minute break after that. I think as long as you acknowledge that there isn’t a whole lot you can do about the earlier games it is pretty easy to stay calm and focus on the coming."
Many must be wondering, what is your practice routine? Do you have some other hobbies you balance the days with?
"I wouldn't say I have really a clear practice routine but I try to get as much practice as I possibly can and feel like it is useful. I don't really have any other actual hobbies since I havent played golf once this year yet. But I do like to balance my gaming career with other stuff aswell and especially now in the summer there's a lot to do outside!"
Do you plan to keep practicing at home since it has clearly been effective, or will you travel to Korea to prepare for Blizzcon?
"No plans to go to Korea this year anymore but possibly next year."
How would you describe your progress during the years you have played StarCraft 2?
"I think my progress has been pretty slow during the years. I was decently good when I started playing and then I was slowly climbing ladder ranks for 5 years without any real tournament results. My progress started to skyrocket when I went full time in the beginning of 2017 as I managed to fully concentrate on one thing instead of balancing between playing and going to school."
Which players have been your biggest inspirations in the scene?
"My biggest inspiration has always been Jaedong."
You’ve said you consider yourself among the top 5 players in the world right now. Who are the 4 others in your opinion?
"Like I mentioned I think GSL vs The World was a good sign, but at the same time Koreans probably will be studying and preparing for me better there now because of this. I think I can win the Global Finals but I might just aswell lose in the groupstage, but I like my chances to do well there."
We wish Serral the best of luck for his upcoming tournaments, and a heartfelt congratulations for his achievements this year.