Australian number three Dokic, who is rebuilding her troubled career, had the world number seven reeling in the second set before a rain break interrupted her flow and Schiavone came back to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 under the Centre Court roof.
Schiavone, so at home sliding around on clay, finds it tougher going on grass and her best performance here was reaching the quarter-finals in 2009.
Dokic, 28, is rebuilding her career and this was her first Wimbledon Centre Court appearance in nearly a decade. She has made the main draw here only twice in the past seven years but gave Schiavone a tough examination.
Dokic won just one tour match last year but won Kuala Lumpur in February - her first title since Birmingham in 2002.
Dokic burst on the scene at Wimbledon's Centre Court in 1999 when, as a qualifier, she knocked out the top seed Martina Hingis. She went on to reach the semi-finals the following year.
Dokic reached fourth in the world rankings in 2002 but her well-documented problems with her father took their toll and she fell to finishing the 2006 season at number 621.
In what ended up as only the fourth match completed under the Centre Court roof, the Australian seemed in her element, throwing in the odd chip and letting her hard-hitting, flat strokes do the talking.
The first set went to 4-4 before Schiavone broke to take it 6-4. Dokic then surged into form to take the second set 6-1.
The players were dead level, at 1-1 and deuce on Schiavone's serve in the deciding set, when heavy rain began to fall.
The Centre Court roof was sent into action, just five hours into the tournament. The translucent roof takes 10 minutes to close and a further 30 minutes for the climatic conditions inside to stablilise.
Dokic had been in full flow but the break halted her momentum and the Italian number one returned the better for the short rest.
Schiavone broke for a 3-1 lead when Dokic fired wide but the Australian broke back immediately to love.
The Italian had a break point at 4-3 up and won it when Dokic double-faulted to leave her serving for the match.
Dokic, still full of fight, had break points four times but Schiavone hung on and moved to match point with a powerful ace.
She shot long to take it back to deuce then earned a second match point, winning it when Dokic hit a return long.
After the match, Dokic said she thought the rain break affected her momentum.
"I did lose some momentum. She did a couple things differently that she didn't do up until that point," she said.
She said she was disappointed at her second opening round exit in a row at a grand slam, considering her good form at other tournaments this year.
"It will hurt for a couple days," she said.
"I'll be thinking about, you know, what I could have done differently. I was just unlucky today.
"She came up with a few great shots when she really, really needed to, that usually maybe she wouldn't have.
"For me it was the other way around. So, yeah just disappointing."
Schiavone faces either Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic or Canadian qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round. Their match did not get underway Monday due to the rain.
- AFPTags: sport, tennis, england First posted June 21, 2011 05:53:00