1. Expect the unexpected: If one the requisite elements of a rivalry is unexpected outcomes, well, Nadal-Federer fills the bill here, too. Rafael Nadal came into their match Sunday in the final of the Barlcay's ATP World Tour Championship looking like a world-beater, ranked No. 1, defending champion of the past three majors and lording a 14-7 head-to-head record over his nemesis. Federer, though second in the rankings, had lost some of that aura in 2010. Yet Federer took out Nadal, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, with a blend of impeccable serving and opportunistic attacking. It was a vivid reminder of his gifts and his prospects for 2011. It was also eloquent reminder of why we love the oscillating nature of a rivalry.
2. Final fantasy: Anyone questioning the health of tennis wasn't in London last week. The World Tour Finals, held at the Anschutz-a-rific O2 Arena, was the sport at its best: sold-out out sessions in a big-time arena; high production values; standout tennis; singles and doubles on display. Yes, it helps to stage event in Europe -- the sport's nerve center -- featuring the top eight players. Yes, it helps to be in London and have Andy Murray available. Yes, it helps that the ATP went to ridiculous lengths with publicity. Still, all tournaments should crib from the marketing playbook here. When David Ferrer plays Robin Soderling in front 17,000 engaged fans, the event has to be doing something right. (Props to doubles winners Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. Their combined age? 72.)
3. More equal than others?: Last week we shared the ATP's public filings from last year. Here's the WTA's. I hate to write this and arm the bigots, but I think this document is an awfully damning exhibit against equal prize money. If Organization A generates of $83 million and Organization B generates revenue of $61 million, hasn't the marketplace determined that one property delivers more value than the other? (And keep in mind: this is 2009, when the WTA still had Sony Ericsson sponsor money and the ATP didn't have Corona; I suspect the disparity is greater right now.) One of tennis' great virtues is its "big tent" ability to accommodate men and women at the same events. We all strive for equality. But strictly as a matter of economics, I'm struggling with the concept of equal pay here.
4. Foot fault: The Australian Open took one on the chin last week when Serena Williams, the two-time defending champ, revealed herself as a non-starter for 2011. This foot injury went from a source of curiosity and speculation to a potential game-changer.
5. Remember him?: Remember Dan Goldie, a former star at Stanford who reached the second week of Wimbledon in 1989? Nice to see him doing well in his second career.