That is why there was so much joy when the tennis titans won Tuesday to set up a fourth-round clash at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California -- two months after Federer downed Nadal in a classic Australian Open final to land a record-extending 18th major
Swiss star Federer edged American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) at what is considered by many to be the biggest tournament outside the majors, while 14-time grand slam champion Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-5.
'I'm going to be excited now'
"That's why I came here, to play against guys like Rafa," Federer, 35, told reporters.
"I'm going to be excited now. Better be excited now, otherwise I came for the wrong reasons."
Despite losing his last two matches against Federer, Nadal still holds a 23-12 edge overall in their head-to-heads and Indian Wells -- where the slower hard court and higher bounces favor his style -- has been his most successful hard-court Masters event.
Wednesday marks their earliest clash at a tournament since their first duel in the third round in Miami in 2004.
Nadal boasts a 50-9 record in the California desert, with three titles, and beat four-time champion Federer 6-4 6-2 when they last played in Indian Wells in 2013.
Nadal's title drought on hard courts
The Australian Open epic came after the pair had faced off just once between February 2014 and January 2016, in Federer's hometown of Basel in 2015.
Neither had appeared in a grand slam final last season and their rendezvous in Melbourne was an unlikely one given both had slid down the rankings due to injuries, with Federer coming into the season's first major ranked world No.17 and Nadal ninth.
However, Federer's first triumph over Nadal in 10 years at a major meant he returned to the world's top 10, while the Spaniard moved ever closer to returning to the top five.
Federer did it the hard way at the Australian Open, rallying from a break down in the fifth set against Nadal, and took time off following a grueling fortnight where he played in three five-set matches.
The Swiss lost in Dubai last month to Russian Evgeny Donskoy, the world No. 99, relinquishing several leads.
But Nadal fared better in his lone post-Melbourne tournament, reaching the final in Acapulco.
The 30-year-old, though, was surprisingly beaten in the final by American Sam Querrey to extend his hard court title drought to three years. He last won a hard-court title in January 2014 in Doha.
In another men's blockbuster in Indian Wells Wednesday, 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic plays Nick Kyrgios for the second straight event.
The talented, yet controversial, Kyrgios upset Djokovic in Acapulco in early March.
The out-of-sorts Djokovic has had a brutal draw in Indian Wells, having played -- and ousted -- 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.
If the Serb defeats Kyrgios, he would face either Federer or Nadal.