The 27-year-old Croatian-born Australian was broken three times in the opening set – thanks to a combination of wayward first serves and limp second serves – as Schiavone looked to be on her way to an emphatic win.
However, the course of the match changed in the second set as Dokic saved four out of five break-points and forced Schiavone into a tie-break – which she went on to dominate 7-1.
Schiavone conceded just one break in the final set, but the Italian failed to find a way through Dokic’s vastly improved serve and crashed out of the Malaysian tournament at the very first hurdle.
Dokic will be joined in the second round by sixth-seed and former junior world number three Ayumi Morita, who claimed a resounding 6-2 6-0 win against Belarusian Darya Kustova.
“I may not be comfortable with the hot and humid weather here but I was bent on performing as best as I could,” said the Japanese 20-year-old. “I am pleased that I have made it through to the next round as it was not an easy match to play. This is my second consecutive year participating in this tournament and I am happy to be back, so I hope to do well for myself compared to last year’s outing.”
Morita will face China’s Shuai Zhang in the next round, who came back from a set and a break down to beat Chang Kai-chen 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4.
Morita’s compatriot Junri Namigata failed to advance from the first round after 6-1 6-3 defeat to world number 10 Agnieszka Radwanska, but fifth-seed Lucie Safarova progressed with a 7-5 6-1 victory over Zarina Diyas.
Chinese 24-year-old Sun Shengnan also reached the second round with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Thailand’s Nudnida Luangnam, and Anne Kramer of Luxembourg held off a fightback from Galina Voskoboeva to win 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3.
Italy’s Alberta Brianti takes on Noppawan Lertcheewakarn later on Monday afternoon.