Standout sticks

As traditional as fish and chips or afternoon cuppa, the storied Wimbledon tennis tournament kicks off today with the qualifying rounds. While the courts are more "catwalk" than ever (yes, plenty of folks will have their eyes on the fashions!), we're more interested in the style of racket the athletes will be rocking. Racket technology continues to advance, with smart materials, shock-absorbing features and patented string suspension. Many of the pros will be using sticks that are available right now, so you can step up your game when you take to the court. Here are four that are turning heads.

Babolat Pure Drive

Who's a fan: Kim Clijsters, U.S. Open champ in 2003, 2009 and 2010.

In the Babolat lineup since 1994, the signature-blue Pure Drive remains hugely popular among amateurs and pros. The racket has had many innovations through the years. Most recently, engineers added graphite tungsten -- braided carbon fibers and tungsten filaments robust enough for use in the aerospace industry -- to the head to reduce torque and increase control at ball impact.

Get it: $185 (unstrung), Babolat.com

Yonex VCORE 100S

Who's a fan: Caroline Wozniacki, currently ranked No. 1 on the WTA Tour

With a more rectangular-shaped head, this racket has a 10 percent larger sweet spot than ordinary round-head rackets. The result: easier swing-through and major maneuverability. Deeper grooves also improve stiffness and reduce twisting of the frame so shots are more accurate even on off-center smacks. Extra weight positioned at the sides of the frame gives the face bonus power as you make contact.

Get it: $235, Yonexusa.com

Head YouTek IG Instinct

Who's a fan: Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 6

The Instinct, which hits stores July 12, is designed with shock-absorption technology in the handle to reduce vibration by up to 17 percent. But the coolest tech this racket employs is what the company calls "d30 smart material." On aggressive shots, smart molecules lock together in nanoseconds, providing a player with more power. On slices or drop shots, the molecules absorb the impact to provide a softer touch and better feel.

Get it: $190, Head.com

Prince EXO3 Black

Who's a fan: Vera Zvonareva, ranked No. 3, and recent French Open semifinalist Marion Bartoli

This racket has large string holes with suspension inserts to free the strings from the standard response-strangling grommets. Translation: strings spring more freely even at the outer edges of the frame. This results in a larger hitting zone -- at any head size -- for more consistently accurate shots. Not only used by top ATP and WTA touring pros, this racket is also what Russian Daria Gavrilova, 2010's No.1- ranked junior, takes to the court.

Get it: $189, Princetennis.com

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