PARIS — Justine Henin was back on her familiar clay-covered path, headed toward the end of a tournament she had won the last three times she came.

One, two, three opponents went down in the first week of the French Open. Sure, she had not played at Roland Garros since 2007, retiring instead of defending her title in 2008.

But retirement turned to rejuvenation, and Henin, 27, of Belgium, was here charging through the bracket again as a fear-inducing 22nd seed. She pushed her winning streak, dating to 2005, to 24 matches. She beat the resurgent Maria Sharapova. She was headed toward a showdown with Serena Williams.

“I just wanted so much that the adventure could keep going,” Henin said.

But Henin’s second career, as she has called it, ran into a wall in the form of Samantha Stosur, a strong-limbed Australian with a power game. It was Stosur, 26, an accomplished doubles champion making a late-career surge as a singles player, who broke the streak Monday with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Henin on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“I was against an opponent who was stronger, more consistent,” Henin said. “Stronger when she needed to be; stronger in the important times of the match.”

The seventh seed, Stosur controlled the match’s pace, generally kept Henin parked in neutral behind the baseline, and had more composure at the end of a taut fourth-round match.

Stosur advanced to the quarterfinals to play No. 1 Serena Williams, who swatted away No. 18 Shahar Peer, 6-2, 6-2, in 67 minutes. Immediately after that victory on Court Philippe Chatrier, Williams’s father, Richard, came to Lenglen to scout the next opponent. Like most, he probably thought it would be Henin.

No. 4 Jelena Jankovic and unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova won, too, and will meet in another quarterfinal.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic moved to within one victory of meeting in the semifinals. Nadal, seeded second, beat a rising Brazilian talent, No. 24 Thomaz Bellucci, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4. It was Nadal’s 200th career victory on clay.

Djokovic, seeded third, overcame a lethargic start to beat the American Robby Ginepri, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Ginepri’s career has been marked by unpredictable runs in Grand Slams (to the semifinals at the 2005 United States Open and the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2008 and 2010) sprinkled around inconsistency and injuries. Ranked 98th, he outplayed Djokovic for two sets but settled for a split.

Early in the third set, Ginepri fell while scrambling back on a ball. He found himself on his belly and did a few push-ups, delighting the fans.

“Never doing those again on-court,” he said dryly. “I think that kind of changed the momentum a little bit.”

Djokovic awakened, got a bead on Ginepri’s serve, and moved him like a metronome before putting away points. Suddenly it was Djokovic with the energy, and he eased through two sets to take the victory.

“With that kind of game I performed in the third and fourth set, I think I have a good chance against anybody on the court now,” Djokovic said.

Nadal next plays No. 19 Nicolás Almagro, who upset his fellow Spaniard, seventh-seeded Fernando Verdasco, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Djokovic will play No. 22 Jürgen Melzer, a 29-year-old Austrian experiencing a late-career renaissance. Melzer ended the run of the qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili, who beat No. 6 Andy Roddick in the third round, with a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Melzer’s reward is Djokovic and, more than likely, his first top-20 ranking.

Henin will return to the top 20, too, but has far higher ambitions. Throughout the tournament, Henin displayed vestiges of her game — a sneaky fast forehand, pinpoint shots and incomparable court coverage. It was enough to get Henin to the fourth round. All the while, Henin was warning that she needed a “transition year” to return to the game’s elite.

Monday, in particular, she showed she was not the complete player who left the game two years ago ranked No. 1 in the world. Her lapses lasted entire sets, not a few points. Her backhand was balky. Her once-full reservoir of confidence needs to be refilled.

Still, when she made the final of her first tournament at Brisbane, then again at the Australian Open (where she lost to Williams), the transition seemed both complete and instant. It was as if she had never left. Those perceptions trailed her to Roland Garros.

“All the expectations are coming from the outside, you know,” Henin said. “Everyone wants to see me at the level that I was and to compete. But the confidence I got in 2007, it took many years to be at that level.”

Henin and Stosur played a nervous third set, taking turns earning breaks and then handing them back, sometimes with the indignity of double faults. Stosur double-faulted on one match point, but followed with a winning smash.

Stosur was a forgotten contender here, lost somewhere amid the talk of Henin’s return and Venus Williams’s flimsy dress.

Perhaps that is because she has been occasionally dismissed as only a doubles player, part of a top tandem with Lisa Raymond that won 22 titles, including the 2005 United States Open and the 2006 French Open. Stosur played singles, too, but could not crack the top 20.

A bout with Lyme disease forced her to miss about nine months in 2007 and 2008, and the absence “maybe scared me a little bit to think, O.K., I’ve got to go out there and play and really try and achieve what I’ve wanted to,” Stosur said.

Dividends came quickly. She reached the semifinals here in 2009 as the 30th seed, losing to the eventual champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova. She beat Serena Williams at Stanford last summer. A tour-best 18-2 record on clay this year lifted her to the No. 7 ranking.

“A lot of people have changed their idea of what kind of tennis player I am,” Stosur said. “I guess that’s a good thing.”

Henin’s loss will temper expectations for her at Wimbledon, the one Grand Slam event that she has not won. It was while watching Roger Federer complete his career Grand Slam at the French Open last year that Henin seriously considered coming back.

Regardless of what happens outside London, however, Henin will always have Paris.

“I didn’t consider myself as the favorite,” she said. “If I could win one more match or two more matches, you can start dreaming. But that is not the case anymore.”
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