It's a situation many 13-year-olds would find uncomfortable.
Trey Strobel was within earshot when Gabe Jaramillo, the director of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, was asked to evaluate the youngster's potential.
"To me, his transition game is the best of all the other kids his age," Jaramillo said. "He keeps attacking, keeps looking for the opportunity to go to the net and finish the point. His aggressiveness and his all-around game are why he has the advantage."
Strobel absorbed Jaramillo's comments with the impassive mien of Roger Federer beginning a fifth-set tiebreaker.
"We have four kids about his age who we think are the future of the academy," Jaramillo said, pooling the Bradenton teen with Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy, Joao Barra of Portugal and Yuki Muramatsu of Japan. "Competition is great, and they're going to help each other and push each other to get better."
Such praise heightens expectations, and Strobel admits hearing it increases the pressure to produce. But the bright, energetic, 5-foot-11 Bradenton resident is eager to embrace it as part of the growing process.
"It's a little bit of pressure, but I try to get ahead early in my matches because that takes the pressure away and the other guy starts falling apart," said Strobel, who won singles and doubles titles earlier this month in the Boys 14s Division of the Copper Bowl, a U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned tournament in Tucson, Ariz.
"I know I have to work hard to prove I'm the best on the court. I want to become a professional, and I want to be one of the top-10 players in the world. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I have the game to beat anybody my age right now on any day," Strobel said.
Strobel, who attended Saint Stephen's the past three years before going full-time with the academy program and getting home-schooled, has shown no let-up since the Copper Bowl. After losing a round-of-16 match in the Cheval Winter Sectional north of Tampa, he won five consecutive matches to earn the consolation-draw title. He also teamed with Mario Nicosia for the doubles title.
Two weekends ago in the Plaza Cup in Coral Gables, Strobel reached the singles final before getting beat by
No. 1 seed Gordon Watson. Strobel and Alexander Ritschard won the doubles. Strobel, who hopes to play at Stanford University before joining the professional circuit, has risen to a state ranking of No. 8 in Boys 14s and No. 47 nationally, up from 120 last year.
For all his devotion to tennis, Strobel could be a spokesperson for the type of well-rounded student-athletes the academy strives to develop. A straight-A student at Saint Stephen's, he takes history, Latin, English, math and science through various high-level online programs.
Last year, he was one of 463 students worldwide to make a perfect score in the National Introduction to Latin Exam.
Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., Strobel played a variety of sports, finding time for piano lessons between his games and school. But his parents, Jamie Golden and George Strobel, recognized Trey's interest in tennis early.
"When he was 2, we brought Trey to the Kroger
St. Jude Tennis Tournament, and we watched from one of the boxes," Golden recalled. "He was enthralled with it, and the rest of the year when we drove by the club, he used to go 'Tennis, tennis.'
"Then when he was 6, he got his picture taken with Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins (Mike and Bob). Now they're large posters in his room."
Day by day, despite the intensive training regimen, Strobel is loving life at the academy. He credits good genes for his adjustment; his dad is a long-distance runner.
And Strobel is into tennis for the duration.
"It's fun to be here and play all the time," he said with the gleam of someone who has found the secret to eternal happiness.