The two great rivals have never played each other at the year's final grand slam but are drawn to meet each other in the quarter-finals next week, and they moved a step closer by winning their third-round ties in brilliant fashion. (Agencies)
Federer, playing the feature night match at a buzzing Arthur Ashe Stadium, doled out a 6-3 6-0 6-2 hammering to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino but knows the focus is already on the possible meeting with Nadal.
"I have gone through that my entire career, people talking about our matches even before the tournament started," he said.
"We're used to it. We know how to handle it. Clearly I think we both hope it's going to happen this time for the first time in New York," he added.
Earlier in the day, when the sun was at its hottest, Nadal turned on his own masterclass to brush aside Croatia's Ivan Dodig 6-4 6-3 6-3 and lead a trio of Spanish men into the fourth round.
French Open runner-up David Ferrer also moved through, beating Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-4, while a third Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, ended the Cinderella run of British qualifier Dan Evans.
Nadal has been in great form in the past month, winning warm-up tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati. He has not dropped a single set in getting to the last 16 at Flushing Meadows and believes he is still improving.
"I played better today than in the previous matches. (That's) always a positive thing," he said.
Nadal's next opponent is Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat towering American John Isner 6-4 3-6 7-5 7-6 (5), while Federer's next assignment is Robredo, a 7-6 (6) 6-1 4-6 7-5 winner over Evans.
The two great rivals have never played each other at the year's final grand slam but are drawn to meet each other in the quarter-finals next week, and they moved a step closer by winning their third-round ties in brilliant fashion.