A KEEN tennis player will hold a tournament in honour of his friend who was trampled to death by an elephant.
Robert Haines will always cherish the support he received from tennis stalwart Colin Manvell, from Havant.
The pair became fast friends after Robert, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and Colin began playing against each other at The Avenue Lawn Tennis Club in Warblington 15 years ago.
When Colin, 68, was tragically trampled to death in India, Robert decided to do something in his memory.
Now the civil servant, who works for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, is holding a charity tennis tournament to honour his friend.
Robert, 49, from Hambledon, said: ‘Colin was a gentleman who was good at gauging the right banter to have with people of all ages and backgrounds.
‘Colin and the others I played with knew about me having Asperger’s and readily accepted my serious outlook and my passion for the game.
‘He was an important and regular part of my life.
‘I miss him.’
Robert was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2002, when he was 38 years old.
He had struggled with school sports and was put off by forced participation in rugby.
His teachers defined him as a non-sportsman in school reports, and he was left frustrated when he developed an interest in tennis only to find people assumed he would not succeed.
Speaking about the diagnosis, Robert said: ‘Suddenly I had a proper explanation for a huge pile of events that had occurred in my life.
‘School generally lowered my self-esteem, and it was only once free of this that I gradually developed the confidence to act on my passion to play tennis.’
Eventually, Robert joined a tennis club and started to develop his passion for the sport.
He has fond memories of the matches played between himself and Colin, who continued to play each other for years.
He credits the 68-year-old for helping support him through his passion for tennis.
As reported in The News, Colin died at the Masinagudi National Park after entering an area of forest and being knocked to the ground by an elephant.
Tributes poured in following the death of the retired geography teacher, who was described as inspirational.
The sponsored tennis tournament, being held for workers at Whale Island, will take place later this week.