Rafael Nadal set up the prospect of an Australian Open final replay with Roger Federer at Indian Wells after cruising past Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-5 on Tuesday.
The pair rolled back the years in Melbourne earlier this year with a five-set thriller that eventually saw Federer claim an 18th grand slam title.
Nadal has only played one tournament since - in Acapulco where he was beaten by Sam Querrey in the final - but he looked sharp and hungry for success in his third-round match at the BNP Paribas Open.
A succession of trademark crisp, powerful forehands from the 30-year-old immediately put Verdasco on the back foot, and when Nadal applied pressure he gained the crucial break.
Another near-perfect service game from Nadal wrapped up the set in 31 minutes, but the second was far from comfortable as Verdasco rallied.
Errors began to creep into Nadal's game, too many shots dropping into the net which gave Verdasco confidence - even though he continued to complain about glare off the stands at one end.
However, that drained away late on as a costly double fault gave Nadal the chance to serve for the match, an opportunity he duly took to record a 16th win over Verdasco in 19 meetings.
A clash with Federer awaits Nadal in round four, but only if the Swiss can overcome big-serving American Steve Johnson later on Tuesday.