Ecuador Open in Quito is the first ATP tournament of the season played on clay but it is certainly not an ordinary event on the slowest surface, staged 2800 meters above the sea level! The lack of air makes the courts in Quito lightning fast and it is not easy for players to adapt to these conditions like they would do on some regular European event on the red surface. A true witness of how quick the conditions in Quito came in 2017 when Ivo Karlovic and Victor Estrella Burgos wrapped up three tie breaks in just 2 hours and 12 minutes, with no break points and with a single deuce in the entire match! The returners failed to win more than one point in 30 out of 36 games and they blasted 103 service winners in total, another surreal number considering this is still the clay.
Almost 85% of the points ended in the shortest range up to four shots and this match reminded us of some indoor carpet encounters from the 90's, that how quick it was. Croatian veteran had a chance to play another similar match this year as well in the opening round, ousting Ernesto Escobedo 6-4 6-7 7-6 in 2 hours and 9 minutes in the match with only two break points! They came on Escobedo's serve while Karlovic defended his service games perfectly, never facing a break point and winning staggering 53 out of 56 points behind his huge first serve, a featuring point of this analysis. You don't have to be that familiar with tennis stats to figure how hard is to win 95% of the first serves, especially when you served more than 50 times and even more when you are competing on clay, the least favorite surface of any server.
Of course, this is a valid point for the majority of the players but not for Karlovic, whose first serve is one of the most lethal shots in the history of our sport, which he proved against Ernesto as well. Here is a review of Ivo's 56 first serves against the young American and that will give us a wider picture how he managed to be so successful behind his initial shot and how he failed to win only three of them:
↓ SHOW RESULTS ↓
Escobedo got a chance to experience what is like to receive serve from the "top of the tree" at the speed of 220 km/h and he certainly didn't enjoy that. Karlovic hit 36 service winners and he was in full control in the other 20 points that Ernesto somehow managed to return. Namely, he won 15 of those 20 points with the winner, mainly at the net after a maximum number of five shots. The returns of the American lacked power and depth and Ivo finds it easy to reach them as soon as possible and finish the point with a volley or a groundstroke.
Two points were ended with Escobedo's shot but those were forehand forced errors as he was unable to control Karlovic's first stroke after the serve. Ivo lost just three points after placing the first serve in and two of those came in set number two when Ernesto managed to gain the control over the "rally" and force mistakes from his rival. Also, Karlovic made a forehand unforced error right after the serve in the third set but that didn't cost him much, finding the first serves in the deciding tie break to prevail 7-5. Overall, the Croat had 51 winners in 53 points he won behind the first serve, which is a staggering number by any means, and this certainly fits the best serving of the season category.