The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 13 May
Tips, Tricks, Picks, and Odds.
This Week, It’s Win or Go Home.
With a plethora of playoff series, knockout tournaments and cup finals occurring over the next week, the stakes have never been higher for teams playing in competitions all around the world. The NBA and NHL are really reaching the pointy end of the playoffs, the FA Cup champion will be decided this weekend, there’s A-league finals, MotoGP Grands Prix, and even the Giro D’Italia to keep us entertained.
Over the next week, it’s kill or be killed.
But don’t worry, because I’m here to guide you through the best of the best. As always, in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports – focusing on a different sport for each day – and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis, and expert intuition.
TUESDAY – TENNIS
On Tuesday, one of the world’s premier clay tournaments gets underway in the Italian capital of Rome. Often used as a warm-up for the Roland Garros, the ATP 1000 Roma attracts the world’s top tennis talent every year – and has even coaxed Federer back onto Roman clay for the first time in a long time.
One game that’s sure to have a bit of excitement – especially for the Australian fans – is the clash between 12th seed rising youngster Medvedev, and one of the most polarising players in world tennis: Nick Kyrgios.
Nick Kyrgios v Daniil Medvedev
Kyrgios comes into this game as a clear underdog, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. He’s never performed well on clay, and is in a run of form that can only be described as mediocre; having won just two of his last eight doubles and singles matches. On his way to this tournament he’s been upset by: the world number 49 (Struff), the world number 50 (Kohlschreiber) and the world number 44 (Albot).
Medvedev, on the other hand, is an absolute rising star, having lost just four of his last 16 singles games. On paper, this should be a walk in the park for Daniil.
The frustrating thing is, Kyrgios has the ability to beat the best in the world when he wants to.
Just look at the Mexican Open. Kyrgios absolutely cruised to an ATP title against some of the best young players in the world, only to go bowing out of the Indian Wells in the first round – against a nobody – a week later. Kyrgios can be frustratingly inconsistent at the best of times – and it’s such a shame because his raw talent could have him up there with the all-time greats.
Looking at this game from a pundit’s point of view, it’s so hard to pick a winner because you just don’t know which Nick will come to court on any given day. We could be treated to serious tennis-player Kyrgios, who can compete with the best, but we’ll most likely be given another show from bratty teenager Kyrgios, who drops a couple of early breaks and capitulates into another self-implosion that’s become all-too synonymous with his name.
Unfortunately for Nick, I have to assume it’s the latter Kygrios we’ll see on display come Tuesday. Especially given that clay is not his preferred surface. I think Kyrgios will get flustered early on, and never rebound – although it’ll probably be the ref’s fault – or the fans – or his coach – just anyone, but him.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Medvedev to Win
WEDNESDAY – NBA
After two series being decided in a game seven (and one in an absolutely insane way), we finally know who will be facing off in the Conference finals of the NBA – and oh boy, they’re going to be fun.
Dame Dolla and the Trailblazers fought off a 14-point deficit in the seventh game against the Nuggets to earn the right to face off against the Empire that is the Golden State Warriors. This is a true good vs evil story in the NBA, and I’m keen to see how it unfolds.
Golden State Warriors v Portland Trailblazers
The series kicks off with a game one in the sunshine state of California, as the Warriors host Portland in a crucial match that’ll set the tone for the rest of the series. If Portland can get an early away win, it could mean all the difference for them as they aim to make their first final since 1992, and win their first championship since 1977. Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum have put on two of the best guard performances in playoff history, and the performance of the rest of the team has picked up to support their two stars. The Trailblazers are not to be underestimated. They’ve shown a certain determination that I rarely see on the NBA court.
For Golden State, however, making the finals has become a bit of a habit over the past few years (having played in the last four, and won three of them). With that being said, they shouldn’t come into this series thinking it’ll be another walk in the park. With KD’s injury status still uncertain and Steph Curry’s finger plaguing him, this could be the best opportunity yet for a team to knock off Golden State before they reach the big dance. I love Portland as a team and would kill to see them go home with a win already in their pocket.
Oh, and I should also mention that this will be the first time in NBA history that two brothers face off in a conference final, as sharpshooters Steph and Seth Curry stand on either side of the court hoping to send the other home.
I’m going to make this tip with my heart, and hope that by some unforeseen miracle it all comes together. No one wants to see Golden State in another final, and Portland being the ones to knock them out would be the ultimate Cinderella story. As unlikely as it may be, I’m going to pick them to start the series on the right foot with a win away at GSW.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Portland to Win
THURSDAY – NHL
We wrap up the work week preview with another conference final in the always underappreciated National Hockey League.
San Jose Sharks v St Louis Blues
San Jose are definitely the team to beat these playoffs. They’ve been borderline unstoppable thus far, with an offence up there in the league’s best, and a home-crowd so intimidating that it’s almost impossible to win when visiting.
St Louis on the other hand, are a team that not many saw even making it this far, and are really performing out of their skin these playoffs – I guess it’s just a question of how much longer they can keep it up.
At the time of writing, San Jose are 1-0 up in the series, following a thrilling 6-3 home ice win on the weekend. By the time Thursday rolls around, another game will have been played – so the dynamics of the series could be different – but, fundamentally, the outcome will probably follow the same narrative. I like St Louis a lot, I think they’re a team with good dedication. Given the Sharks will be tired from two 7-game series, they might even win a couple games before they go out.
But, at the end of the day, I see the Sharks as the winners of the Stanley Cup, and to do that they have to beat the Blues, as I believe they will come Thursday.
St Louis are a good team, they just aren’t as good as San Jose.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: San Jose to Win