Is Serena done, Hampton? That's like asking if water is wet, or if FOX's new show The Choice is a major step backward in human evolution. Serena's been done since she stepped on that broken glass at a Munich restaurant in July 2010, despite her 2011 U.S. Open finals appearance.
Since her freak foot injury and subsequent 11-month layoff from the game, Serena has not been the same player. Even when she was steamrolling to the finals in Flushing last year, Serena relied mainly on hyper-aggressiveness, brute power, and her aura to strike fear into the heart of her opponents. When Sam Stosur didn't back down in the final and matched Serena power for power, the younger Williams sister folded in a shockingly lopsided 6-2, 6-3 loss.
Now Serena has fallen in the first round of the Grand Slam, an even bigger deal than it appears. In order to string together seven straight victories and win a major title, tennis players have to be confident that they will show up with a killer instinct EVERY DAY, not just when Maria Sharapova or world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka is on the other side of the net. Serena is too powerful and too experienced to simply count out, but I'll be stunned if she wins another major.
As for her replacement, Kvitova is a good call, Hampton. But the fiery Czech woman has proven to be a mercurial force—here one match, gone the next. That leaves Azarenka as the heir apparent to the WTA publicity throne. The 22-year-old started 2012 on a tear, rolling to her first major title at the Australian Open and dropping just two sets in the process. She's young, she's talented, and she's cool under pressure. In the vacuum that is post-Serena women's tennis, that alone should be enough.