Payas Jain and Aadarsh Om Chetri have been sparring partners for the last three years at the same academy. So, when they clashed in the sub-junior boys' final of the East Zone National-ranking table tennis tournament at the R.G. Baruah Sports Complex's Indoor Stadium, here, on Sunday, they had come prepared to jot in their mind the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Delhi’s Payas, the top seed, implemented his plans better as he overwhelmed his friend Aadarsh, the second seed, in six games at 11-9, 6-11, 2-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 to win a hat-trick of zonal titles.

“This is a special moment for me as this is the first time in any category that I have won three National-ranking titles in a season. I had come prepared, but he was up to the task. After the third game (he was trailing 1-2), I slowed down the game,” said the 14-year-old Payas, who trains at the Anshul Garg Academy & Table Tennis Foundation (New Delhi).

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Suhana Saini of Haryana representing Haryana is a Chennai girl in a way as she trains under former State champion R. Rajesh for nearly six months a year for a while now.

The 12-year-old frittered away a 2-0 game lead and was down 2-3, before fighting her way back to beat the top-seed Anargya Manjunath in seven games, 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-7.

“I was a bit scared before the final as I had lost to her in the semifinals of the Central Zone (Indore). Being an attacking player helped me win, I think,” said Suhana, who is a two-time National champion.

Meanwhile, Hrishikesh Shetluur of Karnataka and Sayani Panda of West Bengal claimed the cadet boys’ and girls’ titles, respectively.

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