Top 20 players of 2023: ZywOo (1)

Mathieu “⁠ZywOo⁠” Herbaut is back on top after two years in Oleksandr “⁠s1mple⁠” Kostyliev’s shadow and equals the Ukrainian as the only other player to be named Player of the Year three times. The French phenom first made the list in 2019 at No.1, and repeated that placing the following year.

“It’s incredible to be part of this circle of having 3 HLTV Player of the Year [awards],” ZywOo says. “But I must admit that it’s never been my objective like all these years, I’m looking above all to be as consistent as possible for my team and not to be a nuisance for them.”

ZywOo with his two previous HLTV Player of the Year medals

Since 2019, when ZywOo finished his high school studies and joined Vitality on his first professional contract, the French star has been the best player in the world or the runner-up in a way never seen before. He won five MVP medals in his first year playing at the top level and led his newly formed team to three trophies.

He was then the best during the online era, in 2020, edging out s1mple for the second time in a row, although he wasn’t able to keep up with the Ukrainian star upon the return to LAN, as the Natus Vincere star retook the top spot in the ranking after winning PGL Major Stockholm in dominant fashion. ZywOo put up numbers similar to his two top placings in 2019 and 2020, but with s1mple in his best form, it was just impossible to keep up.

As Vitality struggled in 2022, so did ZywOo. Struggling, of course, means being the second-best player in the world while putting up otherworldly stats for the French star, as he only trailed s1mple and was crucial at every event his team had any success at.

You can read a more in-depth look at ZywOo’s career in his previous appearances on the top 20 list:

Top 20 players of 2019: ZywOo (1)
Top 20 players of 2020: ZywOo (1)
Top 20 players of 2021: ZywOo (2)
Top 20 players of 2022: ZywOo (2)

The Paris Major was on everyone’s mind from the beginning of the year. It was to be the only one in 2023 and, as we learned later on, the last one in CS:GO. But that wouldn’t come right away. First, Vitality breezed through the BLAST Premier Spring Groups with gusto, leaving behind Astralis, Evil Geniuses and Heroic. ZywOo came into the year ready to kill with a 1.42 rating.

Vitality then played two decent tournaments at IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League Season 17. They weren’t the team to beat, finishing 5-6th and 5-8th, but Super-Elite and Big Event playoff appearances were nothing to scoff at at the dawn of the year. ZywOo was an EVP at both and was also high up in the running for MVP despite a quarter-final exit at Pro League. How? A 1.48 rating, 92 ADR, 1.64 impact, 79% KAST, and seven clutches in nine maps.

ZywOo was picking up EVPs since the beginning of the year despite not going deep in the playoffs

The all-important Major RMR came next, and Vitality cleared it without issues, finishing third to qualify straight for the tournament’s Legends Stage. But before flying to Paris came IEM Rio, where Dan “⁠apEX⁠” Madesclaire and company showed that they were peaking — exactly what they wanted before traveling to the Major.

In Brazil, Vitality blundered a best-of-one opener, losing it in overtime to OG, but came back with a vengeance by beating MIBR, FaZe, and OG in the group stage’s lower bracket.

In the playoffs, they butchered BIG, Cloud9 and Heroic on the way to the title. ZywOo was named the tournament MVP, his first in 2023, with a 1.31 rating, 83 ADR, 76.4% KAST, 1.33 impact, and nine clutches won in 15 maps.

The big moment finally came for Vitality, the Major on home soil. The final CS:GO Major for ZywOo to win before that version of Counter-Strike would be gone forever. He did not miss and neither did his teammates. Peter “⁠dupreeh⁠” Rasmussen became a record five-time Major winner and the champions did it dominantly. Not a single map was dropped.

G2, ENCE, Monte, Into the Breach, Apeks and GamerLegion all fell by the wayside in the French capital as ZywOo soared to his first Major MVP award with a 1.39 rating, 86.7 ADR, 1.47 Impact and 78% KAST to show for it.

“It was definitely important for me to win the last CS:GO Major,” ZywOo says. “Playing in Paris in front of our fans was already a goal, but winning the last Major on top of that was even more special. I wanted to win the last Major to end the CS:GO era and start the CS2 era well.

“Winning the Paris Major was the best experience of my life,” he adds. “Playing in front of our home crowd was insane, all of the fans were crazy. My dream came true.”

Vitality didn’t let up the pace at the BLAST Premier Spring Final and blazed past Imperial, Cloud9 and FaZe to reach the semi-finals. There, they beat G2 in a three-mapper before finally being stopped at the last hurdle by Heroic. ZywOo’s performance wasn’t quite at his peak, but he still put in a 1.18 rating to get himself into the MVP race and finish with an EVP mention.

Shahar “⁠flameZ⁠” Shushan was brought on for dupreeh after the summer break, a bold move by the French organization, which was looking to future-proof the team despite having to make the tough decision of benching a player with so much experience. Vitality struggled but made it to the Fall Final in 4-6th place and ZywOo didn’t skip a beat — he was the highest-rated player at the event at 1.37.

Losing a pillar like dupreeh not long after the success in Paris was a low point for ZywOo

The third and final Super-Elite event of the year, IEM Cologne, came next, and Vitality were off to the races after victories over OG and MOUZ in the group stage. ZywOo and company had to start the playoffs from the quarter-finals after a three-map loss to G2, but made it through to the semis over Vitality with the French star shining bright.

The Paris Major champions then squared up against ENCE, but a stellar Álvaro “⁠SunPayus⁠” García put a stop to Vitality’s dreams of making the final. ZywOo excelled in the first two maps, both of which went the full 30, but stumbled on Vertigo with the rest of his team. His 1.25 rating in the tournament and 1.37 were still good for an EVP mention.

Vitality went back to winning ways at Gamers8, clearing the best-of-three single elimination in style by beating MIBR, Natus Vincere, G2 and ENCE. ZywOo was given his third MVP award of the year due to his 1.26 rating, 1.30 impact and 78.4% KAST.

Reports about Danny “⁠zonic⁠” Sørensen and Emil “⁠Magisk⁠” Reif’s impending departures broke right before ESL Pro League, shaking up Vitality as they would lose two key components of their recent success. That didn’t stop the apEX-led squad from reaching the playoffs with a flawless run in the group stage, but once there, they were quickly dismantled by Monte. ZywOo was still good for one last EVP in CS:GO before the switch to CS2.

“The worst moment this year for me was losing dupreeh,” ZywOo says, “but also Magisk, zonic, and Lars. We had created something incredible around this team, so for me it was hard to lose them, they were a big part of my success this year.”

The low points of the year for ZywOo were tied to losing teammates

The game change spelled disaster for Vitality, who went out in last place at IEM Sydney with back-to-back losses to BetBoom and FaZe. In hindsight, the best-of-one blunder in the opener and the loss to the red-hot FaZe, who were having a resurgence in CS2, would just be a blip.

“As far as I’m concerned, I love changing games, so it doesn’t affect me,” ZywOo says. “I know that with the effort we’re going to put in as a team and as individuals, we’re going to stay in the top flight, even on CS2.”

With Magisk and zonic out of the picture, Vitality ended the year on the highest possible note, with back-to-back victories at BLAST Premier Fall Final and the ensuing World Final. One Big Event, one Elite Event, two MVPs for ZywOo to bring his final tally up to five as a good feeling washed over the team with the additions of William “⁠mezii⁠” Merriman and Rémy “⁠XTQZZZ⁠” Quoniam, who returned to his place behind the players in the French organization.

ZywOo finished the first event, at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, with a 1.35 average rating, 80.7 ADR, 1.50 impact, 77.3% KAST, and posted a 1.10+ rating in all but three of the maps played. He was lethal throughout, capping it off with a 1.33 rating in the final against FaZe.

“For the last two tournaments we wanted to end 2023 on a high note and we did,” ZywOo says. “We played our game from start to finish, despite losing half of our staff/team we still stayed focused on our goals.”

Nothing changed at the World Final, where the French star got his second-best rating of the year, 1.41, without giving his rivals a chance. He started off slowly, with a 1.00 rating on Anubis against Natus Vincere, but went in crescendo to the grand final, where he clobbered FaZe in the two-map title decider with a 1.69 rating and 109 ADR to put the lid on 2023 at the top of the world.

ZywOo was charged with lifting the final trophy of the year

Why was ZywOo the best player of 2023?

There’s not much to say about ZywOo’s 2023. All one has to do is throw heaps of praise at him, and it’ll stick. He was the top-rated player (1.31), had the highest KPR (0.82), impact (1.37), KAST (77%), KDD (+875), rating at Elite Events (1.29), rating vs top 10 (1.27), rating in Big matches (1.26), had the most maps with 1.00+ rating (93.3%), maps with 1.30+ rating (52.2%), rounds with a kill (52.3%), rounds with a multi-kill (21.7%) and kills per round win (1.08). He ‘dropped the ball’ in DPR (0.56), 1vsX situations (68), and ADR (82.9), finishing only second in all three of those categories.

The stats speak for themselves and show ZywOo was a monster in 2023 and completely unrivalled. Five MVP awards at all five of his team’s first-place finishes prove just how important he was to Vitality’s success throughout the year. Not to mention that he was an EVP at all but one of the other six events. He passed the eye test, too, leaving behind plenty of impressive plays, highlighted by the best play of the year, awarded to him for his 1vs4 on Nuke against G2 at the Paris Major. On top of that, he also leaves the HLTV Award Show with a third statuette for AWPer of the year.

ZywOo was unmatched for the number one spot and as such has joined s1mple in the pantheon of greats who can boast three HLTV Player of the Year awards, no small feat on top of his two second-place finishes in the five years he has been active, and all of this by the tender age of 23. With his performances not letting up at all after the switch to CS2, ZywOo proved that he is a colossus of the game no matter what is thrown his way while other star players, particularly AWPers, struggled to maintain their consistency at the final events of the year.

“To be honest, the most important thing for me over the last five years has been to enjoy myself as much as possible both on and off the pitch,” the French star says. “And above all the team around me has helped me to keep performing well despite some chaotic periods.

“My goal for 2024 is to go even further than this year, both as a team and as an individual. Just because I’ve won 3 HLTV Player of the Year awards doesn’t mean I’m not going to go any further.”

Bold prediction by 1xBet

Linus 'nilo' Bergman

ZywOo becomes the fifth player to predict a bright future for Linus “⁠nilo⁠” Bergman, Metizport‘s rising star star. Previously, Casper “⁠cadiaN⁠” Møller, Nemanja “⁠huNter-⁠” Kovač, Helvijs “⁠broky⁠” Saukants, and Martin “⁠stavn⁠” Lund all mentioned the Swede in their bold predictions.

A former NIP academy graduate, nilo is averaging a 1.21 rating and 1.33 impact in CS2.

ZywOo topping the list wraps up or Top 20 Players of 2023 ranking, to see the final standings head over to our Introduction article, where you can learn more about how the players were selected.