Billie Jean King made it in tennis the old-fashioned way. She went to public high school and public college while grinding out her tennis training in her free time.
"I was a parks-and-rec kid," King says of her Southern California upbringing. "If I hadn't had access in Long Beach at the public parks, I wouldn't have been here."
Here in the literal sense meant being at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open. But it was also referring to her status as one of the all-time greats with 12 Grand Slam singles titles, including four at the U.S. Open.
But the 2016 tournament in Flushing, which starts Aug. 29, will be different. For the first time, center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, will include a retractable roof.
King attended the roof's official unveiling on Aug. 2 and explained the contraption, which can close in under seven minutes, is a lot more than a block of metal.
"Hopefully, [this will] get new people into our sport, to get them excited, to get the kids excited and have more American champions," she says. "I would like to have more American champions and I'd like our grassroots to be bigger and have a huge critical mass of kids. The more money we can make at the Open, they shove it back out to community tennis. I think it [also helps] the junior development program. So we can help the best kids in the country, whether they have money or not. So there's access for them."
After Arthur Ashe's widow, Jeanne Ashe, closed the roof during the unveiling ceremony, King had the honor of re-opening it.
"It makes a huge difference psychologically to a lot of players," King says. "For the fans, it’s the same thing. The night before, when they find out the schedule of play, if [the'’re] playing on Ashe, you know, 'We’re going out there. We don't even have to worry about whether we should go out today or not, it's gonna be rain or not rain. And if it rains, what are we doing?' They don't have to worry about that anymore. So it just takes a lot of the worry and anxiety out of things. It makes a better experience for the fans."
The U.S. Open is now the third Grand Slam to have a roof on its center court, after the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Since King's last U.S. Open title in 1974, six American women have won in New York City: Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Since 1974, five American men -- Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick – have won the U.S. Open, but none since 2003.
By King's logic, the roof may open the ceiling on that.
Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.