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Pete's still got pop (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 11:07AM; Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2008 11:07AM
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Venus Williams lost to sister Serena in the semis of last week's Bangalore Open.
Venus Williams lost to sister Serena in the semis of last week's Bangalore Open.

I saw Ivan Ljubicic's name show up in the doubles draw of a future tournament in Lagos, Portugal. Do you know the story behind this?
-- Volkert, Utrecht, Netherlands

Great catch, Volkert. The good folks at the ATP say there is a "second" Ivan Ljubicic. (The "John Smith" of Croatia?) The other one has a (2) behind his name to keep them separate and was born in 1988.

So waddabout the Evonne Goolagong story you promised us?
-- John Gordon, Toronto

I suppose the statute of limitations has lapsed. So a few years ago, I was assigned to write a "Where Are They Now?" story on Goolagong for Sports Illustrated. I made plans to meet her during the Australian Open. Just as Pete Bodo had predicted I would, I found Goolagong to be absolutely delightful -- funny, outgoing, aware.

But early in our conversation she leaned in and said, "I just went through my 'secret women's business' and it was such a moving and emotional experience. I feel like a new woman."

Whoa. I tried gently to change the subject, but somehow her recent "women's business" kept resurfacing. It had changed her outlook on life. She was nervous at first, but it was so liberating. It enabled her to bond with other women she had never known. Assuming, of course, that she was talking about menopause, I thought -- refreshing as it was that she was so open -- this had veered into the "TMI" outback.

Later in the day, I met Goolagong's husband, Roger Cawley. He, too, couldn't have been nicer. But after a few minutes of small talk he said, "Did Evonne tell you about going through her secret women's business?" I knew that Australians don't share Americans' biological hang-ups, but this has just gotten weird. "Yes," I said. "She certainly did. I imagine that it's been a change for you, too."

That drew a puzzled look and finally the game of "Who's On First" ended. I learned "women's secret business" is an Aboriginal rite that entails learning about ceremonies, history, law and folklore of the tribes from elders called "women of a higher degree."

I went back to Evonne and, in so many words, explained the confusion. She had a good laugh and, free of confusion, revisited the topic, explaining that she'd headed into central Australia with members of the Pitjantjatjara tribe, where "we connected with our surroundings, the universe, Mother Earth and ourselves ... It brings an amazing sense of peace."

Venus loses early in back-to-back tournaments. Please tell me we do not have another Kim Clijsters in the making. I understand she is engaged to be married. Has she lost focus on the game? For a former No. 1 player in the world, she has to come up with the goods to beat these players.
-- Valerie, Lemon Grove, Calif.

Were it any other player, your concern would be well-founded. But Venus has become such an up-and-down performer, I think it's safe to assume that this is just an abrupt node that will be replace by an abrupt crest that will be replaced by an abrupt node.

Last year, she lost to Aravene Rezai (!) in straight sets in Istanbul, Turkey. A few weeks later she is the Wimbledon champ. Her last match of the year was a straight-sets defeat to 49th-ranked Flavia Pennetta at a Tier-III event. All part of the appeal.

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