ZywOo: "I didn't think I would have a year like this one"
The French star capped off an impressive first full year at the highest level by leading Vitality to glory at EPICENTER, scooping the MVP medal after posting a 1.53 tournament rating, a career-best when it comes to Big Events. ZywOo had been tipped for greatness long before his move to Vitality from aAa in October 2018, but it was impossible to predict when - or even if - he would be able to reach s1mple-esque heights, given his lack of top-flight experience.
As it turned out, the 19-year-old was inches away from hitting the Ukrainian's incredible 2018 heights. He ended the year with a 1.31 rating at Big Events, four MVP medals at tournaments of this stature (plus another one from cs_summit 4) and five EVP mentions. Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, by comparison, had posted a 1.34 Big Event rating and racked up five MVP medals (six if you consider the CS:GO Asia Championships) and four EVP awards. But if there is someone who had reasons to complain about the lack of a supporting cast, that person is ZywOo: of the three teammates that were with him from the start of the year, only Dan "apEX" Madesclaire surpassed the 1.00 rating mark at the highest level, while Richard "shox" Papillon averaged a 0.96 rating at the four Big Events that he played with the team.
ZywOo feels perfectly at home against all levels of opposition, but outside of the server he is still trying to come to terms with his increased media exposure. His English is still a work in progress so his agent, Jérôme Coupez, had to do the translating as we asked the player to reflect on a year that saw him become a global esports sensation.
"To be honest, I did not think I would have a year like this one when I was offered the chance to join Vitality," ZywOo tells HLTV.org. "My only goal was to perform and win tournaments with the team, and we did it.
"From an individual perspective, as months went by I started to realise that I could compete with amazing players like device, s1mple and EliGE. It is absolutely amazing to be considered one of the best players in the world, especially in my first full year."
Vitality moved up two places in the rankings following the Moscow campaign but are still likely to end the year outside of the top five. That may seem disappointing for a team that had spent almost ten weeks at No.2 in the world, but ending 2019 on a winning note was still paramount to instill belief back into the players after a a few lacklustre results.
"This is exactly how we wanted to finish the year as a team and there is nothing better that winning a tournament," ZywOo says. "This tournament was very important for us because it was the last of the year, but it was also the first one for which we had proper preparation with shox. We had a 10-day bootcamp and it felt like a new start for the team.
"The victory is important for us as we want to be the best team in the world in 2020. We need to be more consistent in order to win tournaments on a regular basis."
As 2019 winds down, the community is buzzing with excitement for another top 20 player of the year list and the discussion that comes with it. For most of the year, many saw the battle for the title of No.1 in the world as a two-horse race between ZywOo and s1mple, but Nicolai "device" Reedtz re-emerged as a strong candidate after averaging a 1.23 rating in the latter tournament season, picking up two MVP medals, one of which at the StarLadder Major.
The French AWPer plays down the importance of landing individual honours as he prefers to focus on collective success and says that device would be a deserved winner this year.
"I think that device is my biggest opponent for the No.1 spot," ZywOo says. "Despite s1mple's impressive stats, device had another very impressive year with Astralis, and I think he deserves to be No.1. He is the most complete player I have ever seen and faced.
"I think I will be in the top 20 but it has never been my goal to be No.1. All I wanted was to have a great year with Vitality and to win tournaments, and even though we had ups and downs, I am fully satisfied with our first year as a team, and I cannot wait to compete in 2020 and to do better.
"To be in the top 20 would be a bonus for me, and I can only thank Vitality and my teammates for helping me to grow as a player. I also have to thank everyone for their support, I have no words to describe how important it is to me. The amount of support I have received is just incredible."