The top-seeded Russian suffered his third straight defeat Tuesday, falling 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to Nicolas Kiefer of Germany in the first round at the $400,000 BMW Open.
Kafelnikov is 2-4 on clay this season, with his two wins coming indoors in Davis Cup action. He is 15-11 this season overall, losing five of his last seven matches. Kiefer won only his third match in 11 outings this season and improved to 5-6 lifetime against Kafelnikov.
The 24-year-old German will face Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the second round.Stepanek crushed Dennis Van Scheppingen of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-0, in a battle of qualifiers.
Second seed Tommy Haas of Germany held off David Nalbandian of Argentina, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. Haas, a second-round loser last week in Houston, has struggled somewhat since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.
Third seed Thomas Johansson of Sweden was upset by Rainer Schuettler of Germany, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. Johansson captured his first career Grand Slam at the Australian Open and appeared in the quarterfinals at the Tennis Masters Series Monte Carlo two weeks ago.
Fourth seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic began defense of his title Tuesday with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over qualifier Jan Frode Andersen of Norway; sixth-seeded Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco topped Max Mirnyi of Belarus, 6-4, 6-4; Brazil's Fernando Meligeni defeated Croatian Zeljko Krajan, 2-6, 6-1,6-0; Mikhail Youzhny of Russia got past Morocco's Hicham Arazi, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1; Romania's Andrei Pavel eliminated Andrea Gaudenzi of Italy, 6-3, 6-4.
Fifth seed Guillermo Canas of Argentina withdrew due to an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by German Oliver Gross, who posted a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Raemon Sluiter of the Netherlands.