Four-time champion Henin surrendered a one-set lead to lose 2-6 6-1 6-4 in round four to Samantha Stosur on a stunned Suzanne Lenglen Court as her 24-match winning run at Roland Garros came to an end.
The former world number one’s last defeat on the Paris clay came back in 2004, after which she won a hat-trick of singles titles before announcing her shock retirement from the game just over two years ago.
This year’s French Open was her first since and, despite being less than six months into her comeback, she was widely regarded as one of the favourites.
Henin, who was playing for a fifth successive day after her last two matches took place across two days, said: “It hasn’t been easy, the last few days, to play so many days in a row, even if it’s not full match, but stop and start again the day after and finish the match. “Emotionally, it was difficult to deal with all these matches.”
Australian seventh seed Stosur, who has been a revelation since reaching the semi-finals in Paris last year, will now face world number one Serena Williams in the last eight. Williams watched sister Venus crash out of the women’s singles but there was little danger of her following suit in a 6-2 6-2 victory over Shahar Peer on Philippe Chatrier Court.
In the men’s, Rafael Nadal buried the ghosts of his only French Open defeat by reaching this year’s quarter-finals. Four-time champion Nadal was stunned by an inspired Robin Soderling in round four 12 months ago, but despite a defiant display on Philippe Chatrier Court yesterday, young Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci was unable to repeat the feat.
The 24th seed was ultimately beaten in straight sets, 6-2 7-5 6-4, as Nadal set up a quarter-final clash with fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Novak Djokovic claimed his second-set slump against Robby Ginepri yesterday was down to him not being a “morning person”. The Serb eventually woke up to seal a 6-4 2-6 6-1 6-2 victory and set up a quarter-final against 22nd seed Jurgen Melzer.