Although it was an extremely difficult decision, Sydney Campbell has no regrets about her life changes before the 2012 high school tennis season.
The 17-year-old rising senior, who had cruised to two consecutive TSSAA Class A/AA state individual championships, told her Christ Presbyterian Academy coach that she no longer would play for the Nashville school. She was going solo in chasing her dream of professional tennis.
She had to tell her teammates that she was not going to be part of the team.
She's spent the past few months playing in pro tournaments, and now she's in Chattanooga for the Tennessee Valley Open Championships at Manker Patten Tennis Club. She has advanced to the semifinals in women's open singles and hopes to do the same in doubles and mixed doubles.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Campbell said Friday. "I've played with those girls for two years, but I had to make a decision for me. I've been trying to get better, and not playing for the school this season freed up some more time for me to practice more but have a couple hours to relax before doing homework in the afternoons.
"If I had played [for CPA], I would have practices, matches and homework, so this just gives me more time."
Campbell, who has not turned pro and has committed to play for Vanderbilt University, is the third seed in TVOC singles. The route she's chosen has been tough, she admitted, but she feels she's making gradual progress.
"It's a new level of tennis," she said. "I've been able to qualify for a couple of main draws. I haven't been super, but I've improved my game and I'm starting to get further in these tournaments."
She looks to a fellow Nashville resident for inspiration. That is Brian Baker, who won a match in the 2012 French Open and went five sets against the 11th seed in the second round, won the TVOC men's open singles draw in 2010 and 2011.
Baker's rise to success has helped Campbell keep plugging away.
"Watching Brian play makes me realize that anything is possible," she said. "I know his story very well, and he had a good run here playing here. It's his own professional tournament in a way. I love coming because I love this tournament and I love [tournament director] Ned Caswell.
"I feel like I'm playing the best I have in a while. My serve is better than it's been, and I'm just trying to stay positive."