Dominika Paterova’s father, Pavel, made a living as a hockey goalie, showing the ability to scan the ice quickly, anticipating threats before they even materialized.
Now Paterova, a sophomore at the University of Miami, does similar work with her eyes, while playing tennis instead of hockey. Whether it’s in singles or doubles, she assesses all the moving parts and makes split-second decisions about where to move and how to hit.
“Domi is a very talented player and really smart,” UM teammate Ulyana Shirokova said. “She sees everything.”
What is coming into full view now is that Shirokova, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Russia, and Paterova, who is 5-8 and from the Czech Republic, are helping boost the Hurricanes as the NCAA playoffs get set to begin at various sites on May 11.
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Through the regular season, Shirokova posted an impressive 16-5 singles record while Paterova was solid as well at 12-6. They helped balance a lineup that includes No. 1 singles player Estela Perez-Somarriba, who went 22-1 and is ranked third in the nation.
In addition to Perez-Somarriba, a sophomore from Spain, Miami boasts Sinead Lohan, a senior from Ireland who is 17-5 this spring as the Canes’ No. 2 singles player.
The Canes’ No 3 and No. 4 players – Daniella Roldan and Ana Madcur – have struggled a bit. Roldan, a junior who transferred in this season after two years at the University of Texas, is 10-9. Madcur, a junior from Argentina, is 6-13 this spring after going 27-6 as a freshman and 21-15 as a sophomore.
Similarly, Lohan went 38-8 as a freshman and 40-6 as a sophomore but hasn’t been as dominant since.
That’s where Shirokova, 18, and Paterova, 22, come in to view as Miami’s No. 5 and No. 6 singles players, respectively.
Not only have they combined for 28 singles wins, they have also been Miami’s best doubles duo at 12-1.
“We’re good friends off the court,” Paterova said when asked why she and Shirokova have formed such a killer doubles team. “We understand each other a lot.”
Shirokova said her older teammate keeps her from, well, going crazy.
“I can get a little ‘cray-cray at times,” Shirokova said of her on-court temper. “Domi calms me down.”
Both Paterova and Shirokova have been coming to the U.S. in general and South Florida in particular long before they enrolled at UM.
Paterova, who started playing tennis at age 5, traveled to Boca Raton with her family on vacation when she was 11. While there, they happened on the tennis academy of legendary player Chris Evert. Paterova met Evert and impressed enough to earn a scholarship to the academy, spending the next six years shuttling between Russia and Boca.
Along the way, she played in two of the biggest international tennis tournaments, both held in South Florida. She reached the Orange Bowl quarterfinals in 2014 and won the Eddie Herr singles and doubles titles in 2016.
“That was probably my best experience in tennis,” said Shirokova, who plans to major in International Business. “The atmosphere – you feel like you’re a pro. It was an honor to play there.”
Meanwhile, Paterova traveled around with her father, mostly throughout Europe but also the U.S. as he continued his career as a pro goalie. Pavel’s career highlight was serving as a backup in 1998, when famous teammates such as winger Jaromir Jagr and goalie Dominik Hasek led the Czech Republic to the 1998 Olympic gold medal in Nagano, Japan.
Paterova is a force in her right, however, and her UM coach, Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, appreciates her attitude and that of Shirokova, too.
“They love doubles, and they understand how to play,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Their enjoyment is super high, and they communicate well.
“Uly has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. She has every shot in the book, and she’s good at moving the ball all over the court. That style could throw off some other doubles partners. But Domi understands it because she reads the court so well.”