Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut is one of the greatest stars that CSGO has ever had. But just a few years ago, he didn’t even compete in esports. His first professional experience with CSGO was at the end of 2018, yet he has become an influential figure and even made the number one spot of HLTV’s top players of last year.
Why ZywOo Waited So Long to Become a Pro
In 2017, ZywOo CSGO was already a triple-A player… as in a player for aAa, a French organization. Against All Authority operated until the end of 2018, when the last players left the squad. They became famous during their existence, mainly because of their star player, ZywOo. Three years ago, HLTV already did an extensive feature titled “One for the future: ZywOo”. He became one of the hottest prospects within CSGO, but the player took a lot of time before signing his first professional contract.
For Mathieu, finishing school was the top priority. Before that, he wouldn’t take up a full-time opportunity. At that time, G2 Esports had already shown their interest in the young player, but eventually, he signed with Team Vitality in the fall of 2018.
The First Months With Team Vitality
No player ever just jumps onto a server with nine seasoned and experienced players and just starts shredding everyone… right? Well, at Vitality’s first event together, DreamHack Open Atlanta, they immediately made first place. ZywOo finished the event with a 1.49 rating, miles ahead of all the other players at the tournament.
Fans and analysts continued to watch him rise during the 2019 tournament circuit. Many eagerly awaited his confrontation with Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, who was regarded as the best CSGO player at that time. At IEM Katowice in February, the fans would finally witness this long-awaited match-up.
And indeed, the match delivered! On a 25-22 score line, Natus Vincere narrowly surpassed the Frenchmen. Back then, ZywOo barely managed to retain a positive rating, whereas s1mple completely ran away with his KDA. So for the time being, ZywOo wasn’t anywhere close to replacing the world’s best player.
ESL One Cologne 2019
There have been a number of tournament victories for the Frenchmen in 2019. But at ESL One Cologne, the team went above and beyond to make it into the Grand Finals. Despite finishing second at the event, their tournament run tells a completely different tale.
Vitality started off with a loss against the Ninjas in Pyjamas. This immediately put the squad into the lower bracket of their group. There, they had to work themselves past ENCE and fnatic, before finally surpassing Heroic for a slot in the playoffs. NRG Esports were their first opponents and were easily bested. It came as no surprise that ZywOo was the absolute top-performer with a 1.87 rating.
Then, Vitality had to go up against the world’s best team, who had just recently won their third Major trophy. Astralis were the team to beat and ZywOo CSGO stepped right up to the plate. The first map was a one-sided affair, with the French player putting up a 1.59 rating in pursuit of the Grand Finals slot. While Astralis narrowly managed to win the second map, Vitality struck right back on Overpass. Once again, ZywOo was the highest-rated player on both teams.
In the Grand Finals, Team Liquid awaited them. There, they finally fell prey to a much better prepared North American team. The Best-of-Five format lends itself to practiced and well-coordinated teams and Liquid were just one step ahead. In the end, Vitality had to pack their stuff, but not before ZywOo was awarded the HLTV MVP medal for the event. Even though he had lost the Grand Finals, he had been one cut above the rest for the entirety of the tournament.
ZywOo vs. s1mple
ZywOo and s1mple clashed two more times in 2019. At DreamHack Masters Malmö in October, Vitality dropped the first map, before overpowering Natus Vincere on the following two maps. During this encounter, ZywOo was the undoubted champion. He finished the Best-of-Three with a 1.34 rating, while s1mple stood at a negative 0.94. This finally made official the change in ranks between the two stars.
At EPICENTER in December, the teams would head for a final confrontation. Whatever was left of s1mple’s claim to the number one spot was obliterated in this very match. ZywOo came out on top with a 1.55 rating. On that last map, Nuke, Vitality won in 16-3 fashion, where ZywOo achieved a 1.74 rating and s1mple managed just four kills. In the end, Vitality even won the entire event.
ZywOo: Looking Into the Future
This player has made CSGO his own, personal playground. His performance was rewarded with the HLTV Player of the Year Award for 2019. The only saving grace for s1mple is that, recently, ZywOo has lost a bit of his magic. In the last few months, Natus Vincere have picked up momentum and actually won their last two encounters with Vitality. Unfortunately, Alex “ALEX” McMeekin has left the French squad, blaming the enormous pressure of constant international travel. In his place, Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier was added to the roster. The difference in lineup has certainly brought about changes for the team and so far, their performance hasn’t been in line with what they were able to show in 2019.
ZywOo seems to have taken a personal hit as well. But maybe this is a sign that Vitality are trying to create a system in which they are not as dependant on him. They have certainly taken a look at Na’Vi’s earlier troubles with s1mple. Having just one star player is never a great option. Back then, Na’Vi adapted by adding Denis “electr0nic” Sharipov to the team, which immediately gave them a boost in performance. Now, the team can function even when s1mple isn’t carrying them on his lonesome. The same holds true for Vitality. Adding Richard “shox” Papillon to the mix has certainly given them another solid foundation. So maybe they just need time to adjust for the in-game-leading change.
All this instability has likely taken a toll on the world’s best player as well. Maybe this is a permanent change and ZywOo has had his peak. However, with just 19 years, the player is much too young to have reached his career high already. There’s so much waiting for him. Maybe Vitality will bounce back and become a championship winning squad once again, or maybe he will find his way into an international star team like FaZe Clan or mousesports sometime soon. From what we have witnessed for the entirety of 2019, we certainly haven’t seen the last of ZywOo just yet.