The 28-year-old Belgian was knocked out in the third round of the Australian Open by Svetlana Kuznetsova last week after a successful run at the Hopman Cup earlier in the month, where she won four successive matches without dropping a set.
However, the elbow complaint resurfaced in Melbourne and the seven-time grand slam champion has admitted defeated and called time on a glittering career.
“In these recent months I have rarely been spared from the pain, those last months were very hard,” said Henin. “Time has passed, and the doubts have grown, and only returning to the courts would give me answers.
“The doctors told me my elbow is too fragile and therefore I cannot continue my profession at this high level.”
Henin, who returned to the sport in January 2010 having previously hung up her racquet in May 2008, added: “After my loss at Wimbledon in June, I knew it would be difficult to come back. But I had decided to keep playing and to give everything to overcome the injury.
The Belgian has been described by tennis legend Billie Jean King as “pound for pound the best tennis player of her generation”. Henin won four French Open titles and two US Open crowns as well as triumphing at the Australian Open in 2004. Her rivalry with compatriot Kim Clijsters was one of the sport’s great rivalries in recent years.
Henin continued: “I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending.
“I’ll need some time to digest all of this but I remain convinced that with hindsight, even if in the sporting sense my return will not have been at the height of my hopes, I’ll realise that despite everything I will have learned and gained a lot in these past 15 months.
“I’m turning an incredible page of my life. What a wonderful trip I have experienced during all these years. Today I’m calmer and I can create a positive and rewarding look back on this experience in my life.”
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news
BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge