Melbourne, Australia, 16 January 2013 | James Hunter-Smith

Lachlan Hewatt is the MLC Tennis Hot Shot of the Year for 2012.

The eight-year-old from the ACT is the first ever winner of the competition which recognised his outstanding enthusiasm, sportsmanship and effort put into the MLC Tennis Hot Shots (MLCTHS) program.

Hewatt received his award at Tuesday night’s ceremony at Melbourne Zoo in front of his family and the other 11 finalists. Former women’s world No.8 and MLCTHS Ambassador Alicia Molik was there to present him with his trophy alongside Australian tennis star Chris Guccione and TV presenter Mark Howard.

Hewatt won a one-on-one lesson with Molik, a year’s worth of coaching at his local club with three friends, $5000 courtesy of MLC alongside a sizeable trophy to put proudly on the mantelpiece at home.

Hewatt, who plays at Melba Tennis Club in Canberra, said he couldn’t believe it when he was officially announced as the winner.

“When it happened I was like ‘what the heck?’ and I was just shocked, so shocked,” he said.

“My mum and dad were really, really happy.”

Hewatt also said he hopes to work on “smashes, serves and a bit on [his] backhand” during his lesson with Molik, and when asked about his highlight of the three days at Melbourne Park he offered: “Just having a fun time with my family.”

> Check out all the photos from the MLC Tennis Hot Shot of the Year awards ceremony at Melbourne Zoo

The awards ceremony kicked off at 6.30pm at the zoo and began with a close-up experience with two 15-year-old giraffes. The kids gathered around the zoo keeper brimming with excitement and looked on in awe as they got to feed the 16ft animals. When one child boldly inquired whether the giraffes enjoyed chocolate, the keeper was forced to bear the bad news by explaining instead they loved to eat carrots, which was the food of choice.

From there the 12 nominees and their families made their way to the zoos’ Rainforest Room, which was draped in MLCTHS banners and overlooked the award winning Japanese Garden and lake.

Howard kicked off proceedings by bringing each finalist up on stage individually giving them a moment in the spotlight via a question and answer session.

There the kids revealed interesting facts about themselves outside of tennis – from Al Davies wanting to be a mathemtician and being the “best in [his] class” at maths to Ellie White being an avid supporter of the West Coast Eagles and a big fan of midfielder Matt Priddis.

But when the clock struck 8.30pm it was time for the first ever MLCTHS of the Year to be announced, only for Hewatt to discover he was the overall winner to the elation and tears of his mother, Emma.

From there Hewatt was treated like a true professional tennis star – he had countless photos with Guccione and Molik and answered a handful of questions from the media. No matter where he turned there was someone there to congratulate him on his success and the smile couldn’t be wiped from his face.

His oversized cheque proudly tucked under his arm – to the value of $5000 courtesy of MLC – will be spent wisely, according to Hewatt.

“I’m going to buy some new tennis shoes because the ones I have here are a bit wrecked up,” he explained.

“I’m also going to buy a bit of LEGO and then put the rest in the bank.”

The 12 finalists and their families will spend one more day at Australian Open 2013 on Wednesday before going their separate ways, no doubt coming away from a wonderful experience they won’t forget.

Entries are now open for the 2013 MLC Tennis Hot Shot of the Year which includes a VIP trip to Autsralian Open 2014.

MLC Tennis Hot Shots is Tennis Australia’s junior development program that uses modified equipment to allow a seamless transition into tennis for young kids under 10 years old.