Ask Matt Gamble a question about himself and you get a quiet, quick answer. But ask about tennis and you get something completely different. His face lights up, the wheels starting turning, and you are rewarded with a thoughtful, pensive response.
Why does he love tennis?
"I just think tennis is so individual," Gamble said. "If you don't succeed, it's all on you."
How would we assess his current game?
"I like my forehand a lot," said Gamble, 14, a freshman-to-be at Webster Schroeder. "That's what I use to control and finish points on. Another one of my strengths is movement. I usually stay in the point really well. My defense is pretty good. I can get to a lot of shots. I want to work on my serve and just being more aggressive with it. But that will probably improve as I get taller and stronger."
It's because of this thoughtful approach and his ever-improving game that Gamble is the 2012 All-Greater Rochester Player of the Year. Gamble, who just finished eighth grade at Webster's Spry Middle School, dominated his competition, winning the Section V state qualifier and advancing to the third round of the state tournament.
"This means a lot to me," Gamble said. "It's really cool. I wanted to win AGR Player of the Year at least once, but I am excited to win this year. Hopefully I can do it again in the future."
His coaches and opponents recognize his potential and current performance level.
"Matt is a great player," said Honeoye Falls-Lima's Quinn Gleason, a three-time AGR Girls Player of the Year and 2012 boys team member. "He is really mentally tough. I definitely had my chances (in the state qualifier final) against him, but he never stopped fighting."
Gamble had an opportunity to claim his first Section V Class A singles title, but he skipped the match to play in a United States Tennis Association national junior tournament in Maryland. Gamble won that event. During the summer, Gamble practices 15-20 hours per week at both the Tennis Club of Rochester and Midtown Athletic Club. Gamble is currently ranked No. 1 in the USTA Eastern Section 14 and under rankings.
"Matt has made some really nice, fast improvements in his game over the past 6-8 months," said Billy Nealon, one of Gamble's coaches at the Tennis Club of Rochester. "He's doing a much better job of making better decisions on the court. It's a learned skill. He's picking up on this foundation of things he has to do to get better.
"He's been really good at keeping things in perspective. And if you really want to go somewhere, keeping it in perspective is a good thing, because it's a long haul."
Much of that improvement is due to Gamble's relationship with Marcus Fugate, another coach at TCR. Fugate, 24, the phenom from Fairport and the former highly ranked U.S. junior amateur, said the similarities between the two are striking.
"We are very much alike, he and I," Fugate said. "We have the same personality. We handle adversity on the court very similarly, where he will shrug it off and I was much the same.
"He learns things really quickly, he is an exceptional athlete, he is physically strong and also mentally strong. Obviously, he has a lot of things that he still needs to improve. But I feel that the things we have worked on thus far, he takes them and runs with them."