Canada’s Fernandez beats Rodionova, advances to main draw

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Canada’s Leylah Fernandez has advanced to the main draw at the Top Seed Open.

The 17-year-old Fernandez downed Australia’s Arina Rodionova 6-2, 6-3 on Monday to advance to the tournament’s main draw through qualifiers.

The teenager from Montreal secured the match in one hour 20 minutes.

The 30-year-old Rodionova didn’t help her cause with eight double faults, including five in the deciding set.

Fernandez, the 2019 French Open junior girls champion, will play American Sloane Stephens in the first round of the main draw.

She beat Stephens in March at the Monterrey Open, before the COVID-19 pandemic put WTA Tour play on hold through the spring.

Fernandez returned to the court in late June at the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, S.C.

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Bell returning to Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Erik Jones

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Christopher Bell is returning to Joe Gibbs Racing and will drive the No. 20 Toyota in the Cup Series in 2021.

Bell will replace Erik Jones, whose contract with JGR expires at the end of this season. Jones has two wins in 133 Cup Series starts.

Bell is finishing his rookie season with Leavine Family Racing, a JGR satellite team that announced last week it had sold its NASCAR charter and will close its doors in November. That left Bell without a ride in 2021, and Gibbs moved quickly to bring back the budding star.

The 25-year-old Bell claimed the 2017 Truck Series title and won 15 races during two years (2018-19) in the second-tier Xfinity Series. He drove both Xfinity seasons for Gibbs. He has five top-10 finishes this year in the Cup Series.

“It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with,” Bell said.

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Rare drought fails to dampen James Anderson’s spirits as England veteran vows to soldier on

Murmurs of an impending retirement were gradually building on Monday as James Anderson prepared to address the media, but those were quickly put to bed as the England veteran vowed to carry on.

Having just turned 38 two weeks ago, Anderson is no longer the spring chicken he once was in his prime. Hence, talks of an irreversible decline were accelerated after his listless showing in the recently concluded Manchester Test against Pakistan.

Playing on his home turf at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, the Lancashire man picked up just the solitary wicket across the two innings. It was quite the comedown for a bowler who has become synonymous for tormenting opposition batsmen under the rain clouds of England’s summer.

It has been a lean summer by Anderson’s high standards with the stalwart picking up a total of six wickets in as many innings against the West Indies and Pakistan. For a man who kicked off 2020 with a seven-wicket haul against South Africa in Newlands, the recent displays might represent cause for alarm.

The veteran has failed to grab any wickets in the second innings for three Tests and running now. These diminishing returns do raise questions about Anderson’s fitness levels in particular and whether he can maintain the intensity over the course of five days.

Although the concerns are valid, it is too hasty to suggest that the seamer has lost his golden touch. He beat the bat on several occasions in Manchester against Pakistan and even saw a catch put down off his bowling. The veteran vented his ire by kicking the ground in frustration, as Ben Stokes looked on apologetically as the guilty fielder in the slip cordon.

“It’s been a frustrating week for me personally,” Anderson said on Monday as quoted by the ICC.

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