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OFFBEAT: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf team up for new tennis racquet
Lionel Cironneau | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sometimes competition on tennis courts can lead to a partnership off the court.

HEAD/Penn, a leading manufacturer of sports equipment, has just unveiled its new line of Star Series tennis racquets.

The three-racquet series, which hit store shelves earlier this month, features what's touted as "revolutionary new technologies" that provide more power, control and comfort.

Each racquet also has a unique look and appeal which the manufacture believes "evokes the true spirit of a Champion racquet."

But what's most interesting is this new line of racquets were developed by legendary players Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. The husband-and-wife team worked with experts to design racquets that maximized performance on the court, no matter what the skill level. The Star Series racquets range in price from $180 to $250.

Of course, the idea of celebrity-endorsed tennis racquets is not an entirely new concept.

When I was in high school in the early 1980s, I had a Jimmy Connors wooden racquet manufactured by Wilson that featured an embossed signature on the handle and a zippered cover. There were women's racquets as well that boasted the embossed signature of Chris Evert. (Remember, Connors and Evert were set to marry in November 1974, but the wedding was called off.)

On the ball

They are called "the Slam Sisters."

However, Venus Williams seems a bit more relaxed than volatile, racquet-crushing younger sister Serena.

Both share winning ways and the secret of always making headlines.

For example, last weekend, it was Venus -- playing at the French Open and wearing a skimpy, black, French "Can-Can" outfit (as shown here) who turned heads.

Last September, it was Serena who was fined $10,000 for a profanity-laced tirade directed at a U.S. Open line judge. Serena waved her tennis ball-clenching fist at the astonished line official. Spectators seated just behind the official who also were in the camera shot seemed equally shocked by the sudden eruption.

Just a day earlier, Serena, the defending champion, had been docked $500 for smashing her racket after the first set of what became a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Kim Clijsters.

Even match commentators Connors and Martina Navratilova were at a loss for words after what they witnessed.

It will be interesting to see what Venus shares in her new 384-page hardcover book, "Come to Win" ( HarperCollins $25.99).

It publishes June 29 and she'll be visiting the big Borders store at 150 N. State St. in Chicago to sign copies at 12:30 p.m. July 9.

Her publicist has the following tease for the book: "Combining talent, drive, and hard work, she's mastered the game of tennis. How will that drive serve her off the court in her post tennis career? For inspiration, Venus turned to nearly 50 business leaders, politicians, doctors, and artists, all of whom previously played competitive sports and who now operate at the top of their field and asked them the essential question."

Quick energy

Tennis players are always reaching for a power bar or fast carb snack break in between sets.

Last month, SOYJOY brand snack bars just launched their newest variety with a delicious line of blueberry bars.

The press kit featured a clever wedding invitation announcing the union of the soybean and the blueberry.

Each 30 gram bar has 140 calories and only 6 grams of fat , 20 mgs of cholesterol, only 45 mgs of sodium, 12 grams sugar, 17 carb grams, and 4 grams each of fiber and protein. Best of all, they are all natural and now available in stores. For more info, visit soyjoy.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or 219.852.4327.

Today's Celebrity Birthdays

Racing legend Al Unser Sr. is 71. Actor Kevin Conway ("Gods and Generals") is 68. Singer Gary Brooker of Procol Harum is 65. Actor Anthony Geary is 63. Singer Rebbie Jackson is 60. Composer Danny Elfman is 57. Gunman John Hinckley (tried to assassinate President Reagan) and bassist Michael Porcaro of Toto are 55. Singer LaToya Jackson is 54. Actor Ted Levine ("Monk," "The Silence of the Lambs") is 53. Actress Annette Bening is 52. Actor Rupert Everett is 51. Singer Melissa Etheridge is 49. Actress Lisa Whelchel is 47. Singer Jayski McGowan of Quad City DJ's and guitarist Noel Gallagher of Oasis are 43. Guitarist Chan Kinchla of Blues Traveler is 41. Guitarist Mark Lee of Third Day is 37. Cartoonist Aaron McGruder ("Boondocks") is 36. Singer Melanie Brown aka Scary Spice of the Spice Girls and rapper Playa Poncho are 35. Actor Brandon Mychal Smith ("Sonny With a Chance") is 11. Danielle Riley Keough (granddaughter of Elvis Presley) is 21.

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