Jose-Luis Clerc lost the opening set, then rallied to defeat Sweden's Mats Wilander, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, in the opening match of the $400,000 Volvo Masters tonight.

Andres Gomez, spurred on by an enthusiastic supporter ringing a cowbell in the almost empty Madison Square Garden, won the second match of the night with a comeback, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Jose Higueras.

Gomez next meets Guillermo Vilas in the quarterfinals Thursday. He recovered from the opening-set debacle to take a 5-1 lead in the second set and then achieved the only break of the final set in the fifth game.

Clerc's victory over Wilander, a Swedish teen-ager, was his first in three meetings. With it, Clerc advances to a quarterfinal meeting Thursday night against John McEnroe, the fourth seed in this 12-man finale of the 1982 season.

Wilander needed 62 minutes to win the opening set as the two clay court specialists stayed on the base line, each hitting powerful top-spin ground strokes. Each game had long rallies. One point took 44 strokes; several others had more than 20.

Clerc took a 3-1 lead in the first set, breaking Wilander in the third game. But Wilander, at 18 the youngest player ever to compete in the Masters, broke back in the sixth game to even the match.

The two traded service breaks in the ninth and 10th games before Wilander broke Clerc at 30 in the decisive 12th game to win the opening set, which took 62 minutes.

In the fifth game of the second set, Clerc broke his opponent, in a game that had seven deuces before Wilander lost the final two points when he netted a backhand, then hit a forehand long.

Clerc held at love to take a 5-1 lead, then held again in the 10th game to close out the second set.

Wilander, who counted Clerc among his upset victims en route to the 1982 French Open title and also toppled the Argentine when he won at Barcelona, never could get in the match in the final set as Clerc broke him in the third and fifth games to race to a 4-1 lead.

Clerc held serve at 15, then broke Wilander at 30 to close out the match.