Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time

Yazeed Al-Rahji secured a seventh career victory in Hail. (Supplied)
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Yazeed Al-Rahji secured a seventh career victory in Hail. (Supplied)
Mohammed Al-Balooshi on his way to victory in the bikes. (Supplied)
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Mohammed Al-Balooshi on his way to victory in the bikes. (Supplied)
Joao Ferreira won the last stage and finished second overall. (Supplied)
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Joao Ferreira won the last stage and finished second overall. (Supplied)
Saleh Al-Saif finished fifth overall and won the Challenger category. (Supplied)
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Saleh Al-Saif finished fifth overall and won the Challenger category. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 February 2024
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Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time

Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time
  • Al-Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk won the Saudi Baja — rebranded as the Hail Toyota International Rally — by 38 seconds

HAIL: Saudi Arabia’s top rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi has become a seven-time Hail International Rally winner, clinching his latest title on Saturday by a margin of just 38 seconds in his Toyota Hilux.

An outstanding performance saw Al-Rajhi and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk win the fifth Saudi Baja, now known as the Hail Toyota International Rally.

Leading overnight Al-Rajhi, in his Toyota Hilux Overdrive T1+, unexpectedly lost more than five minutes on Saturday. Fortunately for him he had enough of a gap from Friday to remain in first position.

“I am very happy. It’s a very enjoyable rally and my seventh win,” he said. “It’s always nice to win here. I never expected that I would become a Baja or a cross-country specialist but my first win here opened my eyes to this kind of racing. I enjoy it a lot. Now I am going from the dunes to the Alps for some skiing … and then I will return to racing for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.”

The Portuguese Joao Ferreira (Mini JCW Rally Plus) had a great finish, winning the special stage on Saturday and moving up to second position in the overall standings, only to lose by the narrow margin of 38 seconds to the winner.

“It was a very enjoyable race,” Ferreira said. “I am not a specialist on dunes and in sand. The competition was very good and I gained a lot of experience from being here.”

The X-Raid Team made some changes to the Mini’s set-up overnight and revised suspension settings enabled the Portuguese to push a lot harder on the last stage.

Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini and his Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras were second fastest on Saturday morning and came home in fourth overall on the opening round of the FIA World and Middle East Baja Cups hosted by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.

Multiple former T3 winner Saleh Al-Saif has only been beaten once in this event since 2020 and the Saudi overcame an early scare and stormed to victory in the Challenger category in his G Rally Team OT3. Partnered by Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari, he finished fifth overall and 11min 41sec clear of his nearest rival Joao Dias in the Santag Racing Can-Am Maverick. Al-Saif was also the top finisher in the FIA Middle East Baja Cup, while Dias topped the FIA World Baja Cup standings.

Dubai-based Alliyah Koloc teamed up with Frenchman Sebastien Delaunay and guided her Red-lined Revo+ to seventh overall and second place among the contenders registered for the FIA Middle East Baja Cup.

The fifth quickest time on the final stage enabled Dania Akeel to displace her former Can-Am team-mate Fernando Alvarez and snatch eighth on her first appearance in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. The Saudi was third of the FIA Middle East Cup contenders and collected valuable points for the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

Alvarez and his co-driver Xavier Panseri secured ninth in their South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR and topped the SSV category. Spaniard Alexander Toril Boquoi finished second and Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari was third and first of the FIA Middle East Baja Cup contenders. Front drive shaft woes on the opening stage ruined Amerigo Ventura’s chances in his Yamaha.

Fuel pump issues on day one ruined Eduardo Pons’s chance of pushing for Challenger honors in his Taurus T3 Max.

Local driver Majed Al-Thunayyan guided his Nissan Patrol to a useful finish and FIA Middle East Baja Cup points in the Stock category for series production cross-country vehicles.

Mohammed Al-Balooshi rode cautiously to set the fourth quickest time on the last morning but did enough to seal a fourth victory in Hail since 2020 on the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup. The MX Ride Dubai man finished the stage 4 min. 34 sec. behind Saudi Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera but won the event by 2 min. 12 sec. on his KTM from his Kuwaiti team-mate Abdullah Al-Shatti. The stage win ensured that Al-Mogheera finished third ahead of Emirati Hamdan Al-Ali.

Al-Balooshi said: “I am very happy to win this rally for the fourth time. I have a perfect record here in Saudi. I have never lost here. Today was very tricky. It was an easy stage but so simple to make a stupid mistake. Our strategy was to bring the bike to the finish line and secure the win. With that we lead the world rankings. I am also proud that the top three are GCC riders, me from the Emirates, Abdullah from Kuwait and Abdulhalim from Saudi Arabia. I am proud to have an all-Arab podium.”

Jordanian Abdullah Abu Aisheh lost vital minutes on the last stage and slipped to sixth place after he received a 15-minute penalty for a route violation. That gifted fifth place to Spaniard Pedro Bianchi Prata after he had overhauled German open-class rider Philip Horlemann. Bahrain’s Salman Farhan came home in eighth and Qatar-based Australian Martin Chalmers and fellow countryman Andrew Houlihan rounded off the top 10.

Haitham Al-Tuwaijri cruised to his third successive victory in the quad category in Hail. The Yamaha Raptor 700 rider finished 1hr 05 min. 15 sec. ahead of Hani Al-Noumesi in his successful quest for FIM Bajas World Cup points. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban finished third.

Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (Nissan) won the Saudi National Baja and picked up vital points toward the four-round Saudi Toyota Rally Championship on a stage where runner-up Faris Al-Moshana (Nissan) set the fastest time.


Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion
Updated 19 May 2024
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Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion
  • Joins likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion
  • Britain's Fury says he believes he won fight but lost in scoring, looks forward to a rematch

RIYADH: Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury by split decision to win the world’s first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years on Sunday, an unprecedented feat in boxing’s four-belt era.

Britain’s Fury was the early aggressor but Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat.

Ukraine’s Usyk joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognized four major belts in the 2000s.

Britain’s Lennox Lewis was the last man to unify the heavyweight belts — three at the time — after beating Evander Holyfield in 1999.

With the win, the still-undefeated former undisputed cruiserweight champion can legitimately claim to be the best of this era, although a rematch expected in October could provide another twist.

“It is a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country,” said Usyk, 37, who briefly served as a soldier after the Russian invasion.
“It’s a great time, a great day,” he said, adding that he was “ready for a rematch.”
Fury called it a “fantastic fight with Oleksandr.”
“I believe I won that fight, I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them,” he said.
“You know his country is at war, so people are siding with the country at war but make no mistake, I won that fight in my opinion and I will be back.”

Two judges scored it for Usyk by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113. The victory extended Usyk’s professional record to 22-0. After his first loss, Fury stands at 34-1-1.
Usyk, who adds Fury’s WBC belt to his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, looks set to go down as one of the greats after dominating at amateur, cruiserweight and now the top division.
A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight and the 6ft 9ins man (2.06m) man was quickly into his rhythm, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab and playing to the crowd.
Usyk got inside with some quick combinations while Fury landed some heavy body shots. By round four, the Mancunian was taunting his ever-advancing opponent and showboating, guard down.
Usyk called two low shots in round five and got caught with a left hook as Fury continued to look comfortable, landing a telling uppercut in the following round and bobbing and weaving to stay out of range.

But the Ukrainian tagged Fury with two clean lefts in the seventh and landed a punishing hook that dazed the “Gypsy King” in the eighth.
By the next round, a relentless Usyk barrage had Fury in serious trouble and the wobbling, bleeding Mancunian took a standing count before being saved by the bell.

Fury recovered his poise and with the match in the balance heading into the final round, both fighters were finding the target.

Usyk's promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that the Ukrainian was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.
“I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened,” Krassyuk said.

Wladimir Klitschko was among the legends watching along with Saudi-based football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who like boxing are grateful beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia's lavish push into sports.
Riyadh’s newly built, 22,000-capacity Kingdom Arena was packed when Usyk strode out for his ringwalk at 1:30 am (2230 GMT) wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat.

Fury followed, dancing to Barry White and Bonny Tyler’s “Holding out for a Hero” in a green sleeveless jacket and back-to-front baseball cap.
It set the stage for a clash of two fighters with impeccable pedigrees and very different approaches to the sport.
Fury has had a rollercoaster career, with lows including a two-year, backdated drug ban and struggles with alcohol, cocaine and depression.

Fury had shed 15lb from his last outing when, sluggish and out of shape, he was knocked down by ex-MMA fighter Francis Ngannou en route to a split decision in October.
Usyk, by contrast, has been the model of consistency with a career that was always on the rise.
The 37-year-old from Simferopol in Crimea put together an outstanding amateur record, winning European and world titles and Olympic gold in 2012.
After turning pro, he unified the cruiserweight belts in 15 fights before moving up to heavyweight, where he took three belts from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and won their rematch the following year.


Usyk in tears for late father after historic heavyweight win

Usyk in tears for late father after historic heavyweight win
Updated 19 May 2024
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Usyk in tears for late father after historic heavyweight win

Usyk in tears for late father after historic heavyweight win
  • Promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that Usyk was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine

RIYADH: An emotional Oleksandr Usyk shed tears for his late father after crowning a brilliant career by becoming boxing’s first four-belt undisputed heavyweight world champion on Sunday.

The 37-year-old Ukrainian won a split decision against Britain’s Tyson Fury in Riyadh in the first heavyweight unification fight since 1999.
The former European and world amateur champion, Olympic gold medallist and undisputed cruiserweight champ — still undefeated as a professional — now adds the ultimate boxing crown.
Afterwards Usyk, who needed four stitches to a cut above his right eye, and who was headed to hospital for a scan of his jaw, remembered his father, who died shortly after his Olympic victory in 2012.
“I miss my father,” he said, wiping his tears with his T-shirt. “I know he’s here.”
Usyk has missed children’s birthdays and even the birth of his daughter during his eight-month camp for the Fury fight, originally scheduled for February before the Briton suffered a cut in training.
His promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that Usyk was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.
“I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened,” Krassyuk said.
But Usyk said: “No knock-out, no problem.”
“I don’t think about it because we had a win.”


Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh ‘Ring Of Fire’ showdown to become undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh ‘Ring Of Fire’ showdown to become undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion
Updated 19 May 2024
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Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh ‘Ring Of Fire’ showdown to become undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh ‘Ring Of Fire’ showdown to become undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion
  • Joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion
  • Two judges scored it for Usyk 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113
  • Britain's Fury says he believed he won the fight but lost in the scoring, looks forward to a rematch

RIYADH: Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury by split decision to win the world’s first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years on Sunday, an unprecedented feat in boxing’s four-belt era.

Britain’s Fury was the early aggressor but Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat.
Ukraine’s Usyk joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognized four major belts in the 2000s.

Britain’s Lennox Lewis was the last man to unify the heavyweight belts — three at the time — after beating Evander Holyfield in 1999.

With the win, the still-undefeated former undisputed cruiserweight champion can legitimately claim to be the best of this era, although a rematch expected in October could provide another twist.

Tyson Fury came out aggressively but a fired up Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

“It is a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country,” said Usyk, 37, who briefly served as a soldier after the Russian invasion.
“It’s a great time, a great day,” he said, adding that he was “ready for a rematch.”
Fury called it a “fantastic fight with Oleksandr.”
“I believe I won that fight, I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them,” he said.
“You know his country is at war, so people are siding with the country at war but make no mistake, I won that fight in my opinion and I will be back.”

Tyson Fury, left, believes he won most of the rounds against his Ukrainian opponent. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

Two judges scored it for Usyk by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113. The victory extended Usyk’s professional record to 22-0. After his first loss, Fury stands at 34-1-1.
Usyk, who adds Fury’s WBC belt to his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, looks set to go down as one of the greats after dominating at amateur, cruiserweight and now the top division.
A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight and the 6ft 9ins man (2.06m) man was quickly into his rhythm, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab and playing to the crowd.
Usyk got inside with some quick combinations while Fury landed some heavy body shots. By round four, the Mancunian was taunting his ever-advancing opponent and showboating, guard down.
Usyk called two low shots in round five and got caught with a left hook as Fury continued to look comfortable, landing a telling uppercut in the following round and bobbing and weaving to stay out of range.

A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

But the Ukrainian tagged Fury with two clean lefts in the seventh and landed a punishing hook that dazed the “Gypsy King” in the eighth.
By the next round, a relentless Usyk barrage had Fury in serious trouble and the wobbling, bleeding Mancunian took a standing count before being saved by the bell.

Tyson Fury receives medical attention during his fight against Oleksandr Usyk Action. (Action Images via Reuters)

Fury recovered his poise and with the match in the balance heading into the final round, both fighters were finding the target.

Usyk's promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that the Ukrainian was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.
“I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened,” Krassyuk said.

Wladimir Klitschko was among the legends watching along with Saudi-based football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who like boxing are grateful beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia's lavish push into sports.
Riyadh’s newly built, 22,000-capacity Kingdom Arena was packed when Usyk strode out for his ringwalk at 1:30 am (2230 GMT) wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk entered the packed Kingdom Arena wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat. (Reuters)

Fury followed, dancing to Barry White and Bonny Tyler’s “Holding out for a Hero” in a green sleeveless jacket and back-to-front baseball cap.
It set the stage for a clash of two fighters with impeccable pedigrees and very different approaches to the sport.
Fury has had a rollercoaster career, with lows including a two-year, backdated drug ban and struggles with alcohol, cocaine and depression.

Tyson Fury entered the packed Kingdom Arena full of confidence, not knowing what was in store for him. (Reuters)

Fury had shed 15lb from his last outing when, sluggish and out of shape, he was knocked down by ex-MMA fighter Francis Ngannou en route to a split decision in October.
Usyk, by contrast, has been the model of consistency with a career that was always on the rise.
The 37-year-old from Simferopol in Crimea put together an outstanding amateur record, winning European and world titles and Olympic gold in 2012.
After turning pro, he unified the cruiserweight belts in 15 fights before moving up to heavyweight, where he took three belts from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and won their rematch the following year.
 


Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title

Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title
Updated 18 May 2024
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Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title

Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title
  • She became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 to win at Madrid and Rome in the same season
  • She will next defend her French Open crown later this month

ROME: Iga Swiatek won the Rome Open on Saturday after sweeping aside Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-3 in the final to claim her third Foro Italico title.

World number one Swiatek comfortably prevailed against second-ranked Sabalenka in the last major tournament before she defends her French Open crown.
In front of a packed center court crowd Swiatek won her 12th successive match on clay and became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 to win at Madrid and Rome in the same season.
Swiatek will be red-hot favorite to win her fourth title, and third in a row, at Roland Garros which starts later this month after besting Belarusian Sabalenka as she did at the recent Madrid final.
“Another final, another great battle. After Madrid I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, it can always go both ways,” said Swiatek on court.
“We’ll see about that Roland Garros final!“
The Pole took her winning record over Sabalenka to 8-3 in another hugely impressive display from what has been an almost flawless tournament from the four-time Grand Slam champion, who didn’t drop a single set on her way to another championship victory.
Saturday’s match was less dramatic than Madrid’s three-set thriller as Sabalenka, who has won the two most recent Australian Opens, gave herself too much to do.
Swiatek took the opening set in just 36 minutes in a clinical display of tennis against Sabalenka, who has said repeatedly that Rome is her dream tournament to win.
Going into Saturday’s final Swiatek had won 97 percent of her matches in which she went one set ahead since the start of 2022 and Sabalenka didn’t help her cause by wasting seven break points over two games in the second set.
After Swiatek broke Sabalenka’s serve in game seven it was only a matter of time before she closed out the match and championship.
“I would say the first set I didn’t play well at all. I wasn’t, I don’t know, feeling my game well,” Sabalenka told reporters.
“In the second set I just tried to stay a little bit more aggressive... I just tried to put her a little bit under pressure.
“I had couple of opportunities to break her serve. Probably if I would take that opportunity, the match would go differently. I didn’t use it, so it is how it is.”
On Sunday Alexander Zverev bids to win his second Rome title when he faces Nicolas Jarry in the men’s final.
Zverev is in his 11th Masters final, equalling Boris Becker’s record for the most by a German since the series began in 1990.
 


Leverkusen become first team to complete Bundesliga season unbeaten

Leverkusen become first team to complete Bundesliga season unbeaten
Updated 18 May 2024
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Leverkusen become first team to complete Bundesliga season unbeaten

Leverkusen become first team to complete Bundesliga season unbeaten
  • Cologne were relegated after a 4-1 loss at Heidenheim
  • Union Berlin scored in stoppage time against Freiburg to win 2-1 and beat the drop

LEVERKUSEN, Germany: Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday became the first team in Bundesliga history to go through an entire season unbeaten after a 2-1 home win against Augsburg extended their undefeated streak in all competitions to 51 games.
Crowned champions for the first time in April, goals from Victor Boniface and Robert Andrich put Leverkusen — who play the Europa League final against Atalanta and the German Cup final this week — on course for victory.
“Totally deserved. It was our goal after winning the title against Bremen. Very proud of the team — very satisfied and very happy,” said Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso.
“We can enjoy it just a little bit — and recover tomorrow.”
Elsewhere on the final day of the league campaign, Cologne were relegated after a 4-1 loss at Heidenheim.
Union Berlin scored in stoppage time against Freiburg to win 2-1 and beat the drop, leapfrogging Bochum who will play a two-legged relegation play-off against second-division Fortuna Duesseldorf after losing 4-1 at Werder Bremen.
Leverkusen took the lead after 12 minutes when Amine Adli forced Augsburg goalkeeper Tomas Koubek into an error, winning possession before squaring for Boniface to tap in from close range.
Midfield star Andrich doubled Leverkusen’s lead, backheeling in a rebound after 27 minutes.
Augsburg teenager Mert Komor pulled one back on his first start for the visitors with a stunning strike on the 62nd-minute mark, but Leverkusen held on to win ahead of what could be a historic week.
At the other end of the table, Union — who were playing in the Champions League against the likes of Real Madrid as recently as December — were locked 1-1 at home to Freiburg in stoppage time and headed for a relegation playoff clash with Duesseldorf.
Union had been reduced to 10 men when Michael Gspurning was red carded with four minutes remaining but won a penalty just into stoppage time.
Kevin Volland missed the spotkick but Janik Haberer was there to turn in the rebound and save Berlin.
Bochum, who looked to have secured top-division football with a 4-3 win at Union Berlin two weeks ago, will now need to beat Duesseldorf in a home and away playoff.
The loser will join relegated Cologne and Darmstadt in the second division.
Serhou Guirassy scored a brace as Stuttgart won 4-0 at home against Borussia Moenchengladbach, leapfrogging Bayern Munich, who lost 4-2 to a Andrej Kramaric-inspired Hoffenheim, into second spot.
Despite being without the injured Harry Kane, Bayern were 2-0 up after just six minutes thanks to goals from Mathys Tel and Alphonso Davies.
Maximilian Beier, selected as part of Germany’s Euros squad on Thursday, cut the deficit two minutes later, capitalizing on an error by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to make it 2-1.
Kramaric then scored three goals in 20 minutes to turn the match on its head.
Bayern finished outside the top two for the first time since 2010-11.
“We made a series of a large, individual mistakes and gave the game away. We brought the opponent into the game, defended absolutely inadequately and gave up a 2-0 lead,” outgoing manager Thomas Tuchel said.
“This has happened to us far too often.”
Borussia Dortmund veteran Marco Reus signed off in impressive style in his last home match, scoring a goal and laying on another in a 4-0 win over Darmstadt.
In Dortmund’s last competitive outing before June’s Champions League final with Real Madrid at Wembley, Reus set up Ian Maatsen for the opener after 30 minutes, then added one of his own from a free kick eight minutes later.
Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen added second-half goals to seal the win.
Eintracht Frankfurt came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home with RB Leipzig, while Mainz came from behind to win 3-1 at Wolfsburg.