In 1999, Serena Williams stood center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium with an exuberant smile. Williams, alongside her trademark braids, finally reached the top of her profession. She won her first U.S. Open championship in grand style at just 17 years old.
Beginning Monday, Williams steps onto the U.S. Open stage one final time. Ahead of the first-round match, several sponsors paid homage to Williams and her legacy.
Gatorade released an inspiring commercial spotlighting Williams and narrated by superstar and longtime friend Beyoncé. The commercial focused on the lasting impact Williams had during her career. The theme “love means everything” showed how Williams stood for self-love in all areas of life.
"When the world writes her down in history, we’ll begin where she started, with love," Beyoncé said in the video. "A love that started a movement. A movement to love exactly who you are."
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Serena and Venus seek 15th doubles title at U.S. Open
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion will face Danka Kovinić in the opening draw of the 2022 U.S. Open. Match time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Williams began her tennis odyssey 22 years ago. Several top players like Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are following in her footsteps.
"I think just the way she was able to (transcend) a sport that’s predominantly white … that’s something that as a little girl, and even now, meant a lot to me," Gauff said during U.S. Open media days. "Before Serena came along, there was not really an icon of the sport that looked like me.
"So growing up, I never thought that I was different because the No. 1 player in the world was somebody who looked like me."
Williams is one victory from tying Margaret Court atop the all-time winners' list. Her last Grand Slam victory came against her sister Venus Williams at the 2017 Australian Open.
"I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis," Williams wrote in the September edition of Vogue magazine. "It’s like a taboo topic. It comes up, and I start to cry. I think the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist.
"Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me."
Williams returns to the U.S. Open looking to write a fitting conclusion to her iconic career — at the place where it all began.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Serena Williams at US Open: Beyonce, Gatorade honor tennis star