Women's Tennis Notebook: Sophomore Nika Khmolovska
April 9, 2012
Nika Khmolovska has been involved in tennis her entire life. With a mother as a tennis coach and a supportive father, a tennis racket and balls were basically her first toys growing up in Ukraine. But the sophomore is more than just a tennis player. She is outgoing in the community and has many interests off the court that show off her personality.
Coming from another country, Khmolovska not only had to make an adjustment on the tennis courts but also in other aspects as well.
"In Ukraine we mostly had clay courts, but the tournaments we played on hard courts were my favorites so I was excited that I was going to get more chances to play on hard courts," Khmolovska said. "I was looking forward to coming here for school because I didn't like the system of education in the Ukraine. I didn't really enjoy my studying there. Education is very important to me and I really love it here. This school is at a great level and especially with my major (international studies) there are so many opportunities to meet people from different countries."
Khmolovska has enjoyed the transisition to Old Dominion and has thrived with a 3.95 grade point average.
"I'm trying to get into the accelerated program where you can start your master's degree while finishing up your undergraduate degree," she added. "I'm trying to do this because my credits from Ukraine transferred so I had 30 credits already and ODU has a great master's program especially in the international studies program."
Being only a sophomore, Khmolovska is still a few years away from graduating but she has thought about her future after ODU.
"I have looked at internships with international studies and also looking into to getting my PHD but who knows what is going to happen," she said.
As determined as Khmolovska is in the classroom, the Odessa, Ukraine native is just as well versed in her free time. She especially enjoys dancing.
"My first passion after tennis is dancing. Starting from childhood my parents had me try everything. I was swimming, playing chess, dancing, but with tennis always came dancing, " she said. "It was mostly aerobics, doing jumps and splits and things like that. I actually participated in some competitions and got second place in Ukraine. Sometimes I'll be playing a match and during a break put on my ipod and you'll see me start jumping around."
Dancing is not only something she does by herself but has become a team activity.
"We all love dancing so we have Zumba team dancing sessions in the Student Rec Center and we have a great time," Khmolovska said. One that is enamored with the arts and reading, she also enjoys taking in a good biography and the arts.
"I really love reading, all kinds of stuff, fiction, but my favorite are biographies. My favorite is about Margaret Thatcher. I like to learn about painters because I really love art," she added. "Last Saturday I went to Washington D.C. for the Cherry Blossom festival. I've been there only once before and I was fascinated with all the museums."
"I think its really important how our coaches, especially Dom, are trying to get us involved in community service. I think it's really important to take pride in something like this when you have achieved something and you can share it with someone," Khmolovska said. "Especially with it coming from the Old Dominion team, the people that are getting something from us feel even more special."
In the fall, she spearheaded a project where the team sent shoe boxes full of gifts to children in underprivileged countries and was also a key piece when the tennis teams hosted a Special Olympics event a few weeks ago. Her events to get involved in the community have not gone unnoticed by Manilla.
"She's a fantastic ambassador not only for our team but for women's sports in general," Manilla said. "Whenever we have events she's the one I look to as our right hand. She has a great attitude, she's approachable and just very professional the way she handles herself on a daily basis."
On the tennis courts Khmolovska has also made an impact playing this season at the No. 4 and No. 5 singles spots.
Manilla talked about how Khmolovska has developed her game this season and how she has progress on the court.
"With tennis being such an individual sport your personality comes through. Nika adjusted her game to suit her personality, which is high energy, yet patient," Manilla said. "She has everything aligned to work better for her."
More so than most collegiate sports, tennis has an international flavor to it. The Lady Monarchs' roster features six student-athletes, all from different countries. The ODU roster has players from Ukraine, Russia, Spain, Brazil, Bulgaria and the United States. This dynamic makes for some interesting moments and a little give and take.
"You get to know so much about all the cultures and everyone has different perspectives. Sometimes we will have differences so we have to discuss things and come to a compromise," Khmolovska said. "We are connected by our spirit for tennis and I think we're doing a pretty good job so far."
The Lady Monarchs saw a change at the top over the summer as Dominic Manilla was named head coach and Tony Neykova was hired as the associate head coach.
"We had a good transition, you can definitely tell by the way the team is performing now that we got a lot better," Khmolovska said. "We are more disciplined now, there is a difference in the way we practice now. We are doing more individual work which helps us improve a lot."
The new coaching staff has worked on improving Khmolovska's game in between the lines, but the mental aspect as well. They have given her literature to look at and the sophomore has picked up books as well. Add in what she's gained on the court and off the court, this season has been an improvement for her.
"I feel better technically this year, I feel a lot better this year not only with my confidence, but also with my technique," Khmolovska added. "My level of fitness has gotten better and I feel like I can stay out on the court for hours."