Andy Roddick ran to his right along the baseline and crumbled to the floor, pulling his hands over his hat and letting out a painful groan that echoed around the arena.
"I thought that was it,'' opponent Denis Kudla said.
So did everyone else.
Roddick regrouped from a fresh right ankle injury and an already troublesome right hamstring Wednesday night, rallying past the Ukrainian-born Kudla 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the second round of the SAP Open.
Almost a month since he retired in the second round of the Australian Open with a slight tear in his hamstring, Roddick injured his ankle late in the second set. He returned with a brace around the ankle, won a second-set tiebreaker after Kudla double-faulted and came back from 2-0 down in the final set for a victory even he's not quite sure how he earned.
"The best thing I did was just exist out there,'' Roddick said.
Roddick's return to the court had more drama than he could've imagined.
The bold and brash American complained of the glinting video board that hangs from the arena's rafters, stopped play more than once while fans' cameras or phones flashed, squeaked his shoes between points on the indoor surface and had his share of words with line judges - even shaking his head and walking around the court when a video replay didn't go his way - in the home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks.
All those worries faded late in the second set.
Running to his right along the baseline to chase down a ball while up 5-4, Roddick pulled up limp. He dropped to the ground and the arena fell silent for several seconds until his agonizing grunts faded.
"The look on his face looked like it hurt a lot,'' Kudla said.
Roddick, who had a first-round bye, partially tore a tendon in his hamstring against Lleyton Hewitt on Jan. 19. He was injured in the second set against Hewitt, played 16 more games before retiring and has only practiced sparingly since.
"When you first go down, you don't know how it's going to feel until you take those first couple steps,'' Roddick said. "Unfortunately, it's become all too familiar recently. I didn't want to stop. I'm really sick of doing that.''
After a brief medical timeout, Roddick lost the game on Kudla's serve but rallied in impressive fashion.
The fan favorite in the Bay Area still had more of a plodding than polished pace - which showed even before the ankle injury - but his hard-hitting serve found the lines and so did his passing shots. He put the pressure back on the go-for-broke Kudla, who sailed a serve wide for a double fault and then another passing shot out to hand Roddick the final two points of the second-set tiebreaker.
Even then, Kudla controlled the pace.
Both players held serve until Kudla broke Roddick to go ahead 2-0 in the final set. Roddick immediately broke back, and followed with a series of slices and spins to stay along the baseline and break again at 4-3.
Roddick relied on his serve the rest of the way, finishing with 14 aces to advance to the third round with a "twisted ankle.'' Roddick will get an extra day of rest and won't play again until Friday, when he faces the winner of the Denis Istomin-Michael Russell match.
"I've had some of my best tournaments after really, really ugly first-round matches,'' said Roddick, who turns 30 in August. "You get used to them. I've learned this far along, you go into a day wanting to get a win. And if you come out of it with a win, then that's that and you move on.''
The rest of the field suddenly looks a lot less daunting.
Earlier in the day, top-seed Gael Monfils of France withdrew with right knee inflammation. He also plans to withdraw from next week's ATP Tour stop in Memphis.
Ryan Harrison advanced to the second round by upsetting eighth-seeded Olivier Rochus of Belgium 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. The 19-year-old American rallied past Rochus from 3-1 down in the third set to win the final five games.
Sam Querrey lost his first-round match against Russia's Denis Istomin 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. Julien Benneteau of France also defeated American Ryan Sweeting 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).
And defending SAP Open champion Milos Raonic of Canada defeated Germany's Tobias Kamke 6-2, 7-6 (7).