Blake deserving of top-10 ranking

James Blake didn't win the Pacific Life Open, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer in the final. However, as Patrick McEnroe writes, Blake has clearly established himself as one of the best players in the world.

Updated: March 20, 2006, 2:08 PM ET
By Patrick McEnroe | Special to ESPN.com

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- James Blake is a legitimate top-10 player now (Blake is ranked No. 9 in the ATP Tour rankings after his loss to Roger Federer in the Pacific Life Open final on Sunday). The key for him getting here is that James believes it, that he belongs in the top 10.

I remember a couple of years ago when we were playing a Davis Cup match against Croatia. He had a great win on the first day, and I remember saying at that time, "Blake has the tools to be a top-five player." That was four years ago, and I don't think James believed it at that point. I saw it, a lot of people saw it, but I don't think he really felt he was that good.

James Blake
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesBlake is ranked No. 9 after starting the season No. 24 in the world.
After all that he went through in 2004, with his dad passing away, as well as his injury and illness, Blake came back with a different mind-set and mentality that he's brought to the court. He's playing with more composure, using his weapons better. He's always had great speed and explosive power, but now he's using his physical skills a lot better, and that is what's enabled him to play consistently the last six to nine months. His ranking is just skyrocketing.

There are parts of Blake's game that can still get better. On Sunday, we saw his second serve was a bit of a liability against Federer. That's something he's improved a lot, but when you play against the world's No. 1 player, with the versatility Federer has, you find out pretty quickly what you still don't do that well. James panicked a little bit when Federer started to play his A-game.

Blake has to develop a little more consistency and work the point a little more when he is playing someone with the defensive skills of Federer. Also, a lot of that can be attributed to playing Roger in a big match and in Blake's first Masters Series final. He came out of the gates extremely hot (Blake was serving with a 4-1 lead in the first set) and it looked like we were going to have a great match. But he had the wind taken out of him midway through that second set and just couldn't recover.

Blake's play is great for the United States Davis Cup team, and it's great that Andre Agassi is interested in playing again. After Blake's performance at the Pacific Life Open, three Americans are in the top 10 for the first time since 2000 (Andy Roddick is ranked No. 4 and Agassi is No. 10). That's great for American tennis.

James has brought a lot to the table in Davis Cup, and obviously what he did in Indian Wells has been a major statement. I'm excited, and we'll get Roddick on track. We're feeling pretty good about our chances this year.

Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain, provided analysis for ESPN.com during the Pacific Life Open.

Patrick McEnroe, who enjoyed success playing tennis on both the collegiate and professional levels for more than 10 years, serves as a tennis analyst for ESPN. He has also called play-by-play for select events.