... She might be thinking that she is already on the road and has to pay some sort of accomodation one way or another, so why not sign-up on some small event relatively close to the next major one on her schedule, where she can play with low (or no) pressure and try new ideas or tactics out. If it happens that she wins a match or two playing these events, all the better, at least she goes away with some extra money and points. If she bombs out playing like she's lost all her marbles (i.e. in a typical MikiLu fashion), not much harm done. Yes, I realize this sounds like something straight out of a tennis sci-fi novel, but it's the most reasonable and logical thing I could've come up with to justify some of her losses and make sense in the totally senseless.
As for her overcoming her tennis problems, I think we all know there's only one culprit, and which one it is. The reason for her deciding against asking for help of sports psychologist, can in my opinion be seen as her thinking one of these two things - she either doesn't believe it would help or she doesn't believe that she needs it (in which case she is suffering from epic dellusions). ...
Interesting theory, but I dunno. For a player like Mirjana who is always popping "just inside" or dropping "just outside" the Top 100, the ITF/Challenger events are too important to be taken lightly, not when they are your only source of much-needed ranking points for the week, or maybe the means of securing a draw entry in a future tour-level event you hope to enter. These girls are more obsessed and keenly aware of the "points merry-go-round" than even the statistician fans are.
But your other observations dovetail significantly with this issue of Lucic and her performance at Challenger-type events. Namely, it is a matter of pride and pedigree. Quite frankly, I think Lucic (whether its even at the top of her mind or not) thinks a lot of these events are simply beneath her and she ends up underperforming.
Who can blame her? When you started out as a player groomed by coaches and entire agencies for stardom, and you were constantly being told, "You are the next Steffi Graf," (by Steffi Graf herself, no less!) and "You are the next winner of multiple Grand Slams," and "You are the next No. 1" and "You are a rare talent," and "You are such and such," and then you actually are fulfilling that hype (winning WTA titles, winning a Slam doubles title with the world No. 1, reaching Wimbledon semifinals, etc.) and staying in the best hotels and being followed by the media and getting endorsements and hearing more and believing more ... well, when all that happens, Court 3 with the planks on it at Wiesbaden (or wherever) looks pretty uninspiring. Depressing.
There's no way that entering these Challenger events do not affect a player of Lucic's particular history and pride-level. No way. Especially at the 25K level, everything about these types of events --the surroundings, the shitty facilities, the bad officiating, the lousy scheduling, the cheap accommodations, the lack of staff, the bush league gamesmanship-- EVERYTHING about these sorts of events is basically front-and-center to remind a once-great and once-celebrated player that they are not so great and not so celebrated anymore.
If these events did not somehow get under Mirjana's skin, she would not be human. And she is prideful and stubborn and does believe she belongs with the best. That belief has kept her striving and working so hard the past five years. That's why I think the comparison with Serena is not far-fetched, in context, and needed no reluctance or qualification.
Lucic and Serena are the same age, and what was being said about Serena when she was up-and-coming was likewise being said of Lucic, who was at first even more successful (on paper) than Serena. Lucic was a teen whose pride was being built-up and whose expectations were being built-up the same way that Serena's were being fortified, and by the same suits in the industry, too. How true it all must have felt for Mirjana when, the first and only time she ever played Serena, she very nearly beat her.
It's to Mirjana's credit that she even slogged her way through two years of nothing BUT challengers just to get her ranking in shape and her game in order, but even then, her own words reveal that it was not a pleasant experience. After she broke through to qualify for the 2010 US Open and then beat Molik in the first round, she had a newsroom full of reporters interested in her for the first time in years, and she didn't mince words about her experience in the bush leagues:
You know, when I say I've been working hard, I mean, also playing $25,000 tournaments, quallies of every small tournament there is, and losing a lot of times. It was really hard. It felt like I climbed the mountain just to get through those tournaments, so I feel really good now.
So, like any proud and gifted player with a past like hers, there is a clear note of disdain for these rinky-dink events, and I'm not surprised she may rue having to play them, given that she has certain issues with nerves even for the tour-level events. I'm just amazed that, since she IS playing them, why doesn't she take the negativity out on the other players, as you mentioned, and just really hammer these scrub-girls. Get really mean and show off her stuff?
But again, it's sport, and its psychological, and Mirjana's refusal to see a sports shrink (if indeed she has refused to see one; we do not know) reminds me of Monica Seles who, with all due respect, let her own mental dramas and emotional issues get in the way of regaining her trademark killer instinct after coming back to tennis after her horrific attack. She was not only overweight, she was missing that extra little bit of closing mentality on court. People asked her if she would see a sports psychologist to get over her playing "issues" and Seles flat-out said, very proudly, that she would never do such a thing, because she didn't believe in it. Naturally, a great champion like Seles would be offended at the very suggestion her once-indomitable mind needed work.
And of course, even a tubby Seles playing at 75 or 80% of her capacity was still good enough to win many, many more tournaments and beat all the top players around her ... but she was never her old self again, tennis-wise.
Then she quit tennis and got skinny as a rail. Go figure.
Miki's journey, however it plays out from here, as a tennis player, will likely be more of what we have already seen.
But we have seen flashes of brilliance already, and it would be great to see one more. At least one more.
Yet, there is also the mental fatigue factor, even if she is physically very fit: it must be very, very mentally tiring going two steps forward and ten steps back ALL THE TIME. She's not getting ahead. And one wonders how much more can be extracted, reasonably, from the coaching partnership with Prpic. Doha and maybe the 50K title last year were the only breakthroughs, results-wise, that I see in singles. In doubles, that's a different story, but she has to be looking at the relationship with Prpic and thinking, "Wow, what better coach am I ever going to get, who knows me and my game better? And I'm still hovering around #100 all the time."
Naturally, she might have already fallen far off the map without Prpic, too ... so, it's complicated. Tennis is such a head-crushing sport it's hard to watch the struggles of our favorite players, sometimes.
But there is a reason we remain interested in Lucic and that reason is because, despite her erratic performances and questionable self-attitude and mediocre ranking, she has a great back-story, she IS still immensely talented, to this very day, and she is a stunning player to watch when she is in form, and she is a dramatic player, and more than anything else, she is the kind of veteran star who still has the ability, on the right day or set of days, to absolutely wipe-out a whole bunch of major opponents. And the people who know that about her (that would be all of us) know that this can happen and we want to be around if and when it does.
So we wait. And it's fun to talk tennis while we wait, for my part, anyhow.
Honestly, if she can finish the season in the Top 100 and just one more sweet result, I think that would be a great time to say, "Goodbye. I did my best and had a great time and will always be proud of coming back to world-class competition."
That or commit to two more years of top-level doubles, if she can. But I think she's done if she doesn't get another significant result this season.