NEW YORK — With every serve, Jerzy Janowicz felt as if someone was stabbing him in the right side with a knife.
The Wimbledon semifinalist even tried one underhand in the first round of the US Open on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time). Qualifier Maximo Gonzalez had just hit a couple of winners off what Janowicz thought was best described as a "push," not a serve.
Hobbled by a lower back injury, the 14th-seeded Janowicz lost in straight sets to an opponent whose last victory in the main draw of an ATP Tour event came in April 2011.
Gonzalez, ranked 247th, won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
The last time he played a Grand Slam tournament, Janowicz made history for himself and Polish tennis. He thought he was in great shape heading into the US Open. That changed Saturday, during a workout in the gym with his fitness coach. Janowicz tried an exercise he'd done many times before, but on this day something went wrong.
He could barely walk. He couldn't sit or find a comfortable position to sleep. After a painkiller shot Monday and three acupuncture sessions, at least he could rotate to hit his backhand.
Other parts of his game weren't doing so well, either.
"I couldn't jump," Janowicz said. "I couldn't make a service movement."
Trailing 3-1 in the third set, he decided to try something different on game point. Janowicz quickly flipped the ball over the net with an underhand swing. The line judge apparently didn't even realize he had served, and the chair umpire had to call the ball out.
"The linesman didn't see — the serve was too fast," Janowicz deadpanned, his caustic humor intact.
"Disappointed" was the word he kept using in his post-match news conference, glancing down as he fiddled with the label on a sports drink.
Janowicz took an injury timeout for a trainer to massage his back in the second set. He asked doctors for painkillers, but they said he couldn't ingest any more after the injection.
He threw a racket, argued with the chair umpire, and mostly looked downright miserable for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Gonzalez didn't appreciate the antics.
"If was him, I wouldn't play today," he said.
Janowicz insisted he never considered quitting.
"I was trying to fight," he said. "You never know what it's going to be."
Janowicz was hurt a few days before his first-round match at the US Open last year, too — a leg injury. He went on to lose in what was his only previous appearance in the main draw at this event.
"Maybe I practice too hard before the US Open," he said, sarcastically.
The 22-year-old Janowicz had never been past the third round at a major tournament before his breakthrough at Wimbledon, which ended with a loss to eventual champion Andy Murray. In the quarterfinals, he beat countryman Lukasz Kubot in a match rich with milestones.
It was the first all-Polish meeting in a Grand Slam men's draw and guaranteed that a Polish man would reach a Grand Slam semi for the first time.
On Tuesday, the two were playing on courts next to each other — and both lost.
Janowicz said he hadn't received an exact diagnosis of his injury, but it likely involved his muscles and wasn't too serious. He was going to get tests done after Tuesday's match, but "now I don't care."
The 30-year-old Gonzalez was checking Twitter during dinner Friday when he learned that Janowicz was his first-round opponent.
"I said to myself, 'What a nightmare,'" he recalled.
The nightmare Tuesday was Janowicz's. He had 11 double-faults and 53 unforced errors, losing six of his 14 service games.
Gonzalez has been ranked as high as 58th. That came in 2009, the last year the Argentine reached a Grand Slam second round.
But he scuffled through injuries and his ranking slid. Gonzalez had mostly played in minor-league Challenger events the last few seasons.
"Last year was the toughest," he said. "I kind of lost the will to play. The injuries took a toll. Now I'm motivated. I have experience on the tour. A lot of 30-year-olds are having success right now, guys like Tommy Haas, so why not me?"
Asked if Gonzalez played better than he expected, Janowicz snapped, "He couldn't surprise me. I couldn't serve."
"Stupid question," he said. "I think I surprised him."