(CNN) -- Russian Marat Safin avoided the ignominy of heading into retirement with a first-round defeat in the Paris Masters -- after seeing off Thierry Ascione in a third-set tie-break.
Former world number one Safin, playing his final tournament before calling time on his playing career, held his nerve to progress to the second round with a 6-4 4-6 7-6 victory over the Frenchman, saving three match points in the process.
The 29-year-old two-time grand slam winner, and three-time tournament winner, will now have to defeat sixth-seedd U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro if he is to progress further.
Elsewhere, Ivo Karlovic cruised into the second round after seeing off the challenge of Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.
The giant Croatian was typically dominant on serve with Cuevas failing to gain a single break point. Karlovic took the first set on a tie-break before completing a 7-6 6-4 triumph to set up a meeting with Swedish ninth seed Robin Soderling.
There was disappointment for the home crowd in Bercy as Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu was forced to retire from his match against Viktor Troicki when 7-6 3-0 down.
Italian Andreas Seppi proved too strong for Phillip Kohlschreiber, winning 6-3 6-3, while 2005 winner Tomas Berdych edged out qualifier Vincent Millot 6-3 7-6.
The top eight seeds will join the tournament on Tuesday after being handed opening round byes.