Victory over Carraz takes three tiebreakers

Updated: February 2, 2005, 6:02 PM ET

MILAN, Italy -- After accepting a wild-card entry, top seed Andrei Pavel of Romania barely avoided an early exit Wednesday at the $421,000 Milan Indoors tennis tournament.

Pavel, who turned 31 last week, needed three tiebreakers to defeat France's Gregory Carraz 7-6 (0), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) in a first-round match.

There were no breaks in the 2-hour, 11-minute match as both players relied heavily on their booming serves. Pavel registered 28 aces and Carraz, who reached the semifinals in Milan last year, fired 33.

In the day's lone second-round match, second seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia reached the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-2 rout of Switzerland's Ivo Heuberger.

Ljubicic, who resides in Italy, is looking to rebound from a disappointing performance at the Australian Open, in which he suffered a second-round defeat.

"I expected a much tougher match but was able to stay on top from the beginning," he said.

Swedish teenager Robin Soderling, the No. 5 seed, reached the second round by defeating Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.

Eighth seed Max Mirnyi of Bulgaria, the only other seed in action Wednesday, defeated Francesco Aldi of Italy 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Dutchman Sjeng Schalken ousted Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-2 in his first match since missing most of last year with mononucleosis.

"I was eight months sick," he said. "This is the first match I've played without thinking about my body. In Australia, I was thinking about my body because it was not strong enough yet. Today was the first time I felt I could concentrate on tennis."

In other matches involving unseeded players, Germany's Tomas Behrend dispatched Russia's Igor Andreev 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 and Luxembourg's Gilles Muller bested France's Michael Llodra 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Croatia's Ivo Karlovic served 31 aces and aced a match point in a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over lucky loser Alan Mackin of Great Britain.

Mackin received a spot in the field when France's Fabrice Santoro was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.