Greg Rusedski showed none of the form that inspired Great Britain's Davis Cup win over Israel as he stumbled into round two of the Pacific Life Open.
He beat American Jeff Salzenstein 3-6 7-5 6-3, avoiding a second loss to the 31-year-old, who beat him in 2004.
The turning point of the match was when he broke opponent in the opening game of the third set, soon going 3-0 up.
Two qualifying matches seemed to take their toll on Salzenstein and Rusedski won through to face Fernando Gonzalez.
The Briton said : "I just felt I had to change my tactics a little bit.
"So I got a little bit more aggressive, started chipping and charging on his second serve and taking more risks.
"I haven't had the ideal preparation for this week. I was just pleased with the way I fought and got through."
Already in round two is fellow Britain Tim Henman, who faces Arnaud Clement after the Frenchman defeated Donald Young 6-3 6-2.
The pair play each other later on Saturday.
Elsewhere in the men's draw, France's Gael Monfils defeated American Jeff Morrison 7-5 6-4 and Sweden's Thomas Enqvist beat Karol Beck 6-0 7-5.
Armenian Sargis Sargsian stopped Bobby Reynolds of the United States 6-3 6-2.