When USC's Scott Melville won the NCAA doubles title with partner Rick Leach last spring, it came as anything but a surprise.
Melville and Leach were considered the premier college doubles team in the country and compiled an 18-1 record en route to taking the NCAA championship last season.
Now, less than six months later, the real surprise came as Melville became the No. 1 singles player in college tennis. He earned the distinction by defeating freshman David Wheaton of Stanford, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, Sunday in the final of the Volvo/Collegiate Championships at UCLA's L.A. Tennis Center.
The victory also gave Melville his own little niche in history. No other USC men's player had been able to win this event in the nine years it has been held.
And, at one point, Melville wasn't even sure if he was going to play here. However, he gained entry into the 32-player field as an alternate when one of the All-Americans from last season was unable to come to Los Angeles.
"I wasn't even able to qualify for this before since I've been in college," Melville said, shaking his head.
Which is why he wasn't getting too carried away with his new-found status.
"I don't know how much it means," said Melville, a senior from San Marino. "Especially with 30 some odd matches still to play."
Although Melville downplayed his performance, this was his second tournament victory of the season. He won an event in Panama City, Fla., last weekend. The field at the Collegiate Championships, though, was much stronger, and Melville was able to raise the level of his game, defeating No. 1-seeded Andrew Sznajder of Pepperdine in the second round, and, on Sunday, beating Stanford's Jeff Tarango, 7-6, 6-2, in the semifinals.
He served just one ace in the match against Tarango but picked up the pace in the final, with 10 aces and 2 service winners.
Wheaton got the decisive service break of the first set in the opening game. He was able to break Melville one more time in the first set, but could get only three more break-point attempts in the final two sets.
"He served well and that was about it," Wheaton said. "I didn't think his ground strokes or his volleys were that much better. He just didn't make any mistakes on his serve."
Wheaton, who defeated 1987 NCAA finalist Dan Goldberg of Michigan, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in the semifinals, was attempting to follow the same path Scott Davis took when he won this tournament in 1980. Davis, then a Stanford freshman, won after receiving a wild card. This time, Wheaton was also a wild-card entry.
Wheaton gained some measure of revenge as he and Tarango defeated Melville and Eric Amend, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the doubles semifinals. In the other semifinal, Southwest Louisiana's Bret Garnett and Ashley Rhoney beat Jose Campos and Mark Keil of South Florida, 6-2, 6-4.