The world No. 60 wild card Baghdatis, of Cyprus, took out sixth-seeded American Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 on the indoor hardcourts at Putra Stadium.
Seventh-seeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov, meanwhile, avoided an upset by outlasting Chilean Pail Capdeville 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
One other Day-1 result saw Belgian David Goffin defeat Aussie and fellow wild card Matthew Ebden 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
The 2011 Kuala Lumpur champion will collect $155,000.