The last time Justine Henin had lost here was six years ago, when she was going down with a debilitating illness that was to lay her low for several months, but the Belgian's 24-match unbeaten run at Roland Garros was finally ended here last night. Twenty-four hours after Maria Sharapova became the first player to take a set off Henin on these courts for six years, Australia's Samantha Stosur beat the former world No 1 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to earn a place in the quarter-finals.
Henin's last defeat here came in the second round in 2004, when she was beaten by Italy's Tathiana Garbin. Henin was suffering from cytomegalovirus at the time and played only two tournaments in the following 10 months, one of which was the Olympic event in Athens, which, remarkably, she won.
Stosur, who reached the semi-finals here last year, recovered from a poor first set to dominate the next two. The world No 7 broke Henin at 4-4 in the decider after the Belgian served a double fault and put a backhand out. When Stosur served for the match, Henin's backhand, usually her most potent weapon, misfired and the Australian converted her second match point.
Henin, who came out of retirement in January, left the court to a standing ovation. "I just wanted so much that the adventure could keep going," she said. "I haven't been at my best today. Samantha was the best player on the court. She took her chances. It's difficult, but it's part of the sport. When you come back at this level after two years off you know it's not going to be easy to deal with a lot of situations. That means I still have to work harder. I see it as a big challenge."
Stosur, who lost to Henin in the final in Stuttgart only a month ago, now plays Serena Williams, who beat Shahar Peer 6-2, 6-2. The American lost the first seven points and then won nine in a row to take command of the match.
On the men's side, Rafael Nadal played what he thought was his best match of the tournament so far to beat Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 and earn a quarter-final against a fellow Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro.
Novak Djokovic, the world No 3, beat Robby Ginepri, the only American in the last 16, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 and now faces Austria's Jurgen Melzer. "Once again I came out on top," Djokovic said. "I'm in great shape for the second week of the tournament."