s1mple: "I wanted fast results, but I needed to get back to reality"
With NAVI's playoffs appearance at ESL Pro League looming, HLTV spoke to Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev about their dominant group stage run and adjusting his expectations.
Three tournaments into the existence of Natus Vincere's new international roster, the team around s1mple has so far had some high peaks with two wins over top-five teams, but looked far from the consistent giants they had been before the summer shuffle.
A successful first test in their BLAST Groups debut gave way to a middling top-eight finish at IEM Cologne, and a second-round exit at Gamers8 in Riyadh followed after a landslide loss to the world's best team, Vitality. For the ever-ambitious s1mple, being far from a title contender was a possibility he had not been prepared for.
"We had a really good talk after Riyadh, we had a conversation about what we need to work on and I'm fixing myself as well. I just thought that we were going to insta win. I wanted fast results, fast wins, but I needed to get back to reality," s1mple tells HLTV.
"I forgot about B1ad3's words that we were testing at the beginning with this international roster. He just told our new teammates to do what they love to do at the first tournaments, because he wanted to see how they play, what their style is."
"I went back to reality in Riyadh," the Ukrainian superstar says about what has possibly been the new NAVI's toughest loss so far. "The reality is that it's impossible to become an international team and insta win everything. When you become international, everything changes, all callouts are changing and the first few months are the hardest ones. I was thinking that it can be easy, but we definitely needed some time."
Natus Vincere have been busy in the month that has now passed since their Gamers8 exit. They put in what s1mple says was the longest boot camp the team has had in over a year and a half, and saw it bear fruit in their run to first place in Group C of ESL Pro League, where they didn't lose a single map against 5yclone, Apeks, and FaZe.
|ESL Pro League Season 18|
"I think the difference is that we actually had two boot camps with the new roster, and the second one was right before Pro League, we had two weeks of boot camp," s1mple shares. "I don't remember the last time I had two weeks of boot camp, it was probably before the war started, actually, before Katowice 2022."
"We felt the difference after the second boot camp because we started playing differently. We see the results on scrims, even — of course, if you win on scrims it doesn't mean you're gonna win at the tournament, but, still, it gave us some confidence. After this Group C, I think we have even better confidence."
During their Group C run the team atmosphere in Natus Vincere once again became somewhat of a topic when Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen half-jokingly said in a stream interview that if it wasn't for Justinas "jL" Lekavicius's uplifting spirit, it would be "like a graveyard 24/7".
s1mple insists the comment made the atmosphere sound worse than it is. "There's a much better atmosphere right now. Aleksib's words about graveyard, it's more about our personalities. I don't speak a lot, same as Valerchik [b1t], we are just a bit calm, so maybe it sounded very bad, when you say graveyard."
Natus Vincere now await their playoffs opponent after making it straight to the quarter-finals at ESL Pro League. s1mple was hoping to face off against Astralis, who beat Natus Vincere in an IEM Cologne playoffs-deciding match two months ago, but that is no longer a possibility after Eternal Fire upset the Danes in the opening round. Instead, Natus Vincere's first opponent in the single elimination bracket will be either the Turks or BIG.
|ESL Pro League Season 18|
"The playoff bracket looks really cool, to be honest," s1mple said as he browsed the matchups before the playoffs started. "Vitality, G2, ENCE, NAVI in quarters, that's what I expected from the beginning of the tournament, and it's gonna be interesting who's gonna come out on top of all of us."