NEW YORK - Third seed Magnus Norman turned into the wind in Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday afternoon at the U.S. Open and seemed to see all hope blow away.
He had tried to be aggressive, tried to be conservative. He had even changed his dull, white shirt for a fire-engine red one in hopes of turning red hot. But nothing made any difference.
Across the net, No. 14 Nicolas Kiefer, who has been forced to leave his rooms and change hotels several nights because of the United Nations Millenium Summit, had all the answers as he dispatched the Swede, 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, 6-3.
It was an upset, but probably not unexpected, given the top seeds on the men's side at the Open draw are falling like tennis balls dropped from a cliff.
Norman followed No. 1 Andre Agassi, No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten and No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov over the edge. Of the top five seeds, only No. 4 Pete Sampras is still here, and he plays big, strong Richard Krajicek tonight.
"I think Pete is going to be difficult to beat here," Norman said. "His match with Krajicek is tough. ... I think Pete can come through. I think he will be the winner. If I'm wrong and Richard comes through, then, well, I will go for [No. 6 Marat] Safin."
Safin was an easy winner yesterday, beating No. 12 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Unseeded Swede Thomas Johansson also reached the quarters, beating Wayne Arthurs, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4, and will play Todd Martin, a 6-7 (3), 6-7 (9), 6-1, 7-6 (8), 6-2 winner over Spain's Carlos Moya in a night match that lasted four hours, 15 minutes.
Norman, who beat Kiefer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last January, saw his game come apart here as quickly as the cold front that had rolled in the night before. His precision forehands and backhands seemed to be as chilled as the temperature that didn't make its way out of the 60s.
But he declined to blame his play on anything but his own inconsistency.
"He played a good match," Norman said. "He didn't make any mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. You know, normally, I think I should win this match. But, today, I didn't hit the ball very good. The conditions were totally different from my last match [muggy and hot]. It was very windy, very cold. I just made too many mistakes. Too many unforced errors."
For Kiefer, beating Norman was the easiest thing he had to deal with in the past two days, considering they have been filled with repercussions from the summit.
"I tell you, I had very bad time," Kiefer said. "There were so many bomb attacks [threats], I had to change hotels. Last night, they tell me at 10 o'clock I had to go."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was among those staying at his first hotel, the UN Plaza, and Kiefer told the German media that there were four bomb threats before the decision was made to leave.
"I said, 'Come on, leave me one night here.' But no, it is not safe. I don't want to stay if something is going to happen. It makes [fear]. We have to go," he said. "It was not easy, because there are three of us and we needed three rooms. ... Finally, I found three rooms. But I think tomorrow is going to be the same thing again when Mr. Clinton comes."
Kiefer's bad night's sleep, however, wasn't enough to get Norman a victory. Neither were a number of questionable line calls - one of which came in the eighth game of the fourth set on Kiefer's second match point opportunity.
Norman, who committed 59 unforced errors, hit a blazing forehand that looked wide. Kiefer clenched his fists and raised his arms in victory, only to hear the umpire intone, "Deuce."
The call was the first of three in Norman's service game that allowed him to stave off losing for another game.
"I don't know," Kiefer said. "Maybe those kinds of calls are bonus that goes with being a top player. Maybe soon I will get those calls."
Ever since Boris Becker stopped being a full-time competitor on the men's tour at the end of 1997, Kiefer, 23, has been Germany's hope for filling the six-time Grand Slam champion's shoes.
Last year, when he finished the season No. 6, Kiefer joined Becker and Michael Stich as the only Germans to be ranked in the Top 10.
But Kiefer has yet to win his first Grand Slam title and, in fact, when he steps onto the court against Safin tomorrow, it will be only his third trip to a Slam quarterfinal.
He finally made this one when he converted his sixth match point try with a solid forehand volley. At that point, his fists were again clenched, but this time he was on his knees.
"I'm not so often in the second week of a Grand Slam," he said, explaining his emotion. "I think it is something special to be here."
Asked if making it to the semifinal would be a major breakthrough for him, Kiefer hesitated.
"Sure, but I'm looking forward to playing good my next match," he said. "I think that I can do it one time. It's just a question of the time when I do it, when I break through the semifinal. I'm working hard."
Nicolas Kiefer (14), Germany, def. Magnus Norman (3), Sweden, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-3. Thomas Johansson, Sweden, def. Wayne Arthurs, Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4. Marat Safin (6), Russia, def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (12), Spain, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Todd Martin, United States, def. Carlos Moya, Spain, 6-7 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
Venus Williams (3), United States, def. Nathalie Tauziat (8), France, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, def. Monica Seles (6), United States, 6-0, 7-5.