Sophomore Hristina Dishkova
March 3, 2014
DALLAS (SMU) – Hristina Dishkova has been immersed in tennis for as long as she can remember, but her family and friends have been an integral part of her life, too.
The SMU sophomore was born in Bulgaria but has few memories of living there. She and her family moved to Kleinmachow, Germany, when she was five years old. Her father, Ivan, is a professional tennis coach and has been her coach since the first day she began playing. This could lead people to believe there was potential for conflict or criticism of a parent becoming too pushy and involved in their children's lives. But the Dishkova family had no such issues.
“He has been my coach since the first day I picked up a racquet,” Dishkova said of her father. “We never had any issues because of this. If anything, I feel that he and I have a great relationship on and off the court because he is my coach.”
After the Dishkova family’s move to Germany, Hristina, her mother, Maria, and her older sister, Angela, stayed in Bulgaria for a year. Before the family moved, Ivan was a coach for the Davis Cup team in Bulgaria while Maria was a dentist. The move meant a change in coaching positions and Maria left the work force to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
As the two children began to get older and played tennis at higher levels, traveling to various tournaments around Germany and other countries became an option that Ivan and Maria wanted for their daughters. It was also what Angela and Hristina wanted. So Maria did not go back to work as a dentist in Germany, she traveled to tournaments with her daughters instead. A bond was created with their mother that Hristina still appreciates.
“My mom would travel with us wherever Angela and I would compete,” Dishkova continued. “She gave up her career to help us in any way she could and we cannot thank her enough for that.”
Playing in the same tournaments as her older sister, this allowed Dishkova to compete in older age groups. So she never played on the ITF (International Tennis Federation) or the ETA (European Tennis Association) junior circuit. By 16, Dishkova found herself ranked in the top 30 of the ETA and began to get noticed by several universities in the United States.
Although Dishkova was rising in the ranks, her improvement was affected by certain rules, such as limits of 90 minutes a day of practice time. Dishkova's school was Homboldt-Gymnasium Potsdam, which placed emphasis on academics.
However, the idea of combining studies with athletic pursuits intrigued Dishkova and opened up the idea of coming to the United States. As she researched American colleges, she centered on Rice, Memphis, TCU and SMU. She did not, however, take any campus visits and instead based her decision on relationships with those who recruited her along with Internet research.
SMU head coach Kati Gyulai targeted Dishkova as someone who could help build the SMU program.
“Hristina was my first recruit after I became the head coach at SMU.” Gyulai said. “When I started recruiting her, we were in the middle of a season that finished with only one win. Certainly, that was a big concern when it came to recruiting but Hristina was able to see through that. She got excited about everything else that SMU has to offer.”
Dishkova said when she met with Gyulai, she became well-acquainted with SMU. She had pictures of the campus among other things to show her what SMU is all about. Dishkova wanted a good business school, and SMU had that. Gyulai was able to sell her on the new tennis facility project, the city of Dallas and the Cox Business School.
The distance from Kleinmachow, Germany, to Dallas is about 5,200 miles but Dishkova has grown accustomed to living on her own and learning the cultural differences. She travels to Germany twice a year, for summer vacation and over the winter holiday break.
“I enjoy my time at SMU but toward the end of each semester I am ready to go home and see my family and friends,” Dishkova said. “However, when the end of winter break or summer break nears, I am ready to get back to Dallas. It’s a very good balance.”
Dishkova’s adjustment was helped by other tennis friends playing at colleges. It gave her confidence she could accomplish the same thing.
Dishkova learned to fit in with other personalities on the SMU team. "Hristina joined a team that had several upperclassman as well as a new coaching staff, so the team culture was still in its infancy and needed more nurturing,” Gyulai said. “Hristina is a well-traveled and well-rounded person, so being away from home wasn’t much of an issue.”
Dishkova’s parents have visited Dallas once, a year ago. Her sister Angela has yet to make the flight overseas as she is in law school in Berlin. Dishkova holds out hope that Angela will make it out soon.
“I do FaceTime (on an iPhone) or Skype with my parents quite often,” she said. “I always talk to them after every match and even sometime before. My dad asks me what I did wrong at times and will still coach me despite being in far away.”
This year, Dishkova has posted a record of 14-10 through this past Saturday’s doubleheader versus Sam Houston State and UTEP where she picked up two victories in straight sets at the No. 2 singles position in each match. Her career record includes a 39-21 mark this. She was 25-11 in her freshman campaign where she primarily played at the No. 4 and No. 5 singles positions. Dishkova defeated three ranked opponents including wins over then No. 29 Maria San’Anna (Tulsa), No. 22 Stephanie Nguyen (Rice) and No. 22 -- Liat Zimmermann (Rice).
“I told Hristina recently that she was a good player last year but she is really good year,” Gyulai said. “She is really good because she is resilient and not afraid. She has been the backbone of our team. This season she is our team’s MVP thus far.”
Dishkova is succeeding in the classroom, too. As a freshman, she was awarded the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal and was placed on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll. For her work in the Fall '13 semester, she was selected to the Honor Roll with High Distinction as her grade point average ranked in the top 5 percent of SMU student-athletes.
Dishkova has two years left at SMU but is thinking about the future, too. “Once I graduate, I would like to join the pro tour for a year to compete at that level,” Dishkova said.
Once her tennis career ends, Dishkova wants to work in business, but isn't sure in what capacity just yet. She isn't sure but probably will return to Germany. "I know my mom would like that,” she said.
Whether it is on the tennis court or in the classroom, Dishkova has yet to lose a game she can’t rally back from.