Do you ever wonder why certain players do the things they do, or don't do the things they "should" do? I do--quite often. These questions become unsolvable puzzles because, obviously, we as fans cannot know all of the variables involved. And I suspect that--even if we did--many of these puzzles would still mystify us.*
Ekaterina Makarova: Why can't she get fired up for tournaments that aren't majors? With the exception of the French Open, the tricky lefty-serving Russian is practically a fixture in the second week of a major, but close to nonexistent at other times.
Petra Kvitova: Has she really done the healthcare consulting that she needs to do? Asthma and respiratory weakness are deadly for athletes, and I can't help but believe that there are treatments the Czech star hasn't tried. Her countrywoman, Lucie Hradecka, had some of the same problems, and she resolved them with dietary intervention. There are a lot of ways to approach chronic illness, and it always troubles me how few of them people attempt.
As for Kvitova's other issue--going to pieces in the middle of matches--she was working with a "mental coach," but I don't know if she is still doing that, nor do I know what level of competence the practitioner has. I would like to know what type of psychological interventions are being used with players.
Maria Sharapova: Can't she come up with something new when she plays Serena? At this point, Serena can practically phone it in. Sharapova is a smart player--surely there's another way to try to solve the Serena problem.
Tsvetana Pironkova: Known on this blog as the Bulgarian Woman of Mystery, Pironkova has a great backhand, and--when it's working--a very tricky serve. Her forehand slice, though laughed at, can be effective, but the rest of her forehand is another story. Here is another very good player who needs some special help, but just doesn't seem to get it.
Simona Halep: Halep says that Ilie Nastase says she plays for Porsche, but, she protests, she plays for Romania. Maybe try playing for herself? Though Halep keeps as low a profile as possible and speaks with quiet conviction, there seems to be a lot of drama surrounding her all the time. There's the patriotism plot, the sudden stardom plot, the coach-changing plot. It can't be easy for Halep to have emerged (finally) as an elite tennis player. I think she is deeply talented and hope that she can narrow her focus enough to win big titles.
Sabine Lisicki: She has a huge serve, she has a lovely drop shot, she can construct points. But the German player cannot connect emotional balance with the demands of competition. That's something that can be fixed, but so far, it hasn't been.
Eugenie Bouchard: Do I even go here? There's no WTA award for Mysterious Phenomenon of the Year, but if there were, Bouchard would win it.
*This post originally included Sara Errani's serve, but I have been informed that her shoulder issue is apparently much worse than I was aware of, so I've removed that part of the post. However--given the number of players who have had to modify their serves because of shoulder and back issues, I still wonder whether Errani is serving optimally within the confines of her limitations.