apEX: "Before the Major, I had a feeling that we will win, I was feeling the team like I never did"
Dan "apEX" Madesclaire gives his insight on how he has been able to stay at the top for so long, as well as a plethora of other topics.
In winning the BLAST Paris Major not only did apEX secure his second Major trophy, but he also took the record for the longest time between Major wins, a near-eight year gap. Understandably the Frenchmen felt it was vindication of all his efforts with Vitality, and proof of his mettle as an in-game leader.
There is, however, a sense that the goal for the season has been achieved according to apEX, and coming into the BLAST Spring Finals he isn't quite sure whether that will help or hinder his side. He gives his thoughts on this and more, including his own career trajectory, Vitality's Major-winning exploits, and dealing with pressure, in this interview with HLTV.
You are coming after a couple of successful events at IEM Rio and the BLAST Paris Major and skipping Dallas. This puts you in a position of favorites that you haven't been in in quite a long time, does it change your mindset or approach in any way?
It's tough to say. When you come from winning two tournaments and after the Major tournament, it's always a bit weird because the plan was to win the Major, so now after that...
A plan doesn't exist anymore?
Yeah, exactly, so you're a bit lost in some sense and you don't know what you actually do. We had only one week of preparation because we took some days off after the Major, and I told the guys, 'Okay, obviously it's not the most important tournament for us now, but if we prepare for it and if we go there, let's try to give our best and most likely win it.' We came here with not the best preparation, we also had a few issues with some people sick in the team, so we had a rough week of preparation, but overall we come here to give our best and finish the season on a high note.
We were just talking about how a lot of the teams that are here were in Dallas, they were also at the Major in most of the cases. Do you feel like that's going to come as an advantage for you guys, considering you haven't been on this exhausting run, or is there a sense of fatigue for you as well now that we're right at the end of the season?
I think it can go both ways. Some teams are like they don't care too much, because they maybe failed the season in some sense, or they come here to give their best but with no pressure. It just depends. For us, the plan has been really good from the beginning of the year to now, I think we planned the season perfectly, going to Rio, winning it, and skipping Dallas was the best decision we made. I'm just really proud of that. But of course, one big thing that changes is that people don't realize how much pressure you have when you play on your home soil. I think that was big pressure on us at the Major, and being able to go through that, it gives so much more.
Coming here without pressure at all can also be a game-changer. It was rough at the Major, obviously we didn't lose a map, but it was always close, always a lot of pressure, especially for me and ZywOo because we wanted to perform there. Before the Major, being able to win that one was the perfect scenario, winning on home soil, and for the first one for ZywOo, second one for me, it would have been the perfect thing. We've been through a lot of pressure. People can think it gives extra, and of course it can give you extra, but you need to perform there. Now, coming here with way less pressure, I don't know what's gonna happen, to be honest.
You broke the record for the longest time between Major victories. Does this create a sense of pride in you to have this longevity of your career that not a lot of people have?
Yes. I'm not a player that's as talented as s1mple, ZywOo, but what I've done is that I've always tried to find a way to be good with the team and to give everything and the work ethic that I have is something that helped to have this career, and I'm really proud of that. I'm also really proud of knowing I've won a Major just as a player and then becoming an in-game leader and winning another one. I'm not making records like dupreeh winning a lot of Majors, but at least being able to win another Major after seven years and a half is something I'm really proud of.
You know when you start being an in-game leader, and especially me, a lot of people didn't believe in me, people didn't believe in the way I could call because I was just an entry fragger and people called me dumb, in some sense, but I've always done that because my team needed an entry-fragger. It wasn't something I wanted to do, I just wanted to be a good player for the team. Being able to shut their mouth about being a good in-game leader, I think except 2022 that was rough because of the international team, even with the French lineup it was more a ZywOo show than anything else, but with the lineup we had I think we did really well since 2020. I'm just proud that all the work I've put in is working well and making history in the game is something nice, obviously in another way than ZywOo or s1mple or those big players. It can show people that with a hard-working ethic and all this kind of stuff you can lift trophies and help your team to make big things.
The fun part is that when you win a Major, you think it's crazy - yeah, it's good, but I think losing is way worse than winning. It's something we always say with zonic that both of us hate losing more than we enjoy winning. I think now I'm just focusing on the next chapter, but obviously we still need to define the next chapter, we need to talk about what's the goal of the team now, and we will do that after the player break.
You were talking about the pressure of the Major, and people say this as a bad thing almost that you've had the path beating all the underdogs on the way to the title. In a way that also showed how prepared you were for everything, since everyone else crumbled against those teams, while you sustained that pressure. Why do you think you were able to handle that better than all the other big names?
As you said, I think it's not our fault that the others crumbled at the Major. All the other teams crumbled against underdogs and we didn't. I will be honest, I think I haven't talked about that, but before the Major started, I don't know why, I had a feeling that I knew we will win. I was feeling the team like I never did, and I feel like we could play any team and we could beat them. When I was watching the games, I feel like some teams didn't prepare against those lower opponents, they didn't take them seriously. And we did that mistake way too much in the past, and we lost so many times. We lost to GamerLegion in Rio [Major] because we didn't take them in the right way. Nowadays in CS, if you don't take an opponent seriously, you're going to lose, because people are really close to each other. And you could see that at the Major, it's the first time we saw that many upsets. It's always like one or two teams, but there we had massive upsets almost every game. Mentally we were prepared for that, and thanks to our sports psychologist.
What's good is that all the mistakes we've done since we've had Spinx, losing to underdogs, big advantage games, it helped us to win now and to be at the level we are. We lived all the scenarios before. We lived the massive comeback from Liquid on Overpass. And those things are just preparing you for the next, because now you know how to handle that. We talked about those things, like how are we going to play now. What's going on when you are 13-2, you tend to play individually and just finish the game fast, and that's what we tried at the beginning. But then what's going on is that the opponent is winning some rounds, and then you get scared because you don't play your game. If you start playing your game at the beginning, even if you're 13-2 and you lose rounds, you still have the belief in the team, you know that you didn't fuck up. You just played bad or they played good.
That's the other thing that we learned from the beginning of the year and also the last year that helped us to get here. We lost so many times to underdogs, and we lost a lot of advantage moments, so just being able to live those scenarios before helped us reach our peak at the Major at the right time.
You have been on this streak and it's starting to rack up, you're tied for the sixth biggest map win streak at 14 in a row. Is this something that you care about all to keep up or are you trying not to think about it too much?
I'm not thinking about that at all. A record is nice, but it's not what I'm up for. I don't really care. I never expected us to win a Major without dropping a map at all. Even though that was almost always two digits, always close maps except for the GamerLegion Overpass. But it's important to win those close games. But no, we are not thinking about the win streak. We have a map and game win streak, but we're not thinking about that, just about how to win the game. We didn't win enough to think about those records, we just won two tournaments, it's not something crazy, so for us it's just about focusing on the next one and the next one just to be able to win. If we make records, it's an extra.
You were saying how before the Major you were convinced you guys would win. This time you say your preparation wasn't the greatest up to the Spring Final. How are you feeling now? Is your status of favorites deserved, do you feel confident you can win again?
I don't know, I'm not gonna lie. We'll have a talk. The problem is that we had some people sick and we couldn't have a proper talk last week, so we'll have a big talk today about what we expect from each other, what we expect from the team to do at this tournament. That's gonna be key for us to be able to perform. I think that once again it can go both ways. If we really focus, of course we have this extra confidence that can help us win games, but it can go both ways, so I don't really know. I don't like using too much confidence, I don't get used to that, I prefer playing good as a team and winning. We're gonna talk about that today, then I will have an answer. For now, I don't have any answer.