Rafael Nadal delivered his "best match of the tournament" to thrash Richard Gasquet 6-0, 6-1, 7-5 to ease into the US Open fourth round on Saturday.
Losing to Nadal is nothing new for Gasquet, who is now 0-18 against the Spaniard but seldom over the years has the Frenchman absorbed such a beating.
Arriving at Flushing Meadows having played just a single match since pulling out of Wimbledon semifinals with an abdominal injury, Nadal has been in a race to find form.
After two tough four-set wins - over Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata in his opener and Italy's Fabio Fognini in the second round - Nadal said there were signs of progress against Gasquet.
But the 36-year-old second seed acknowledged he will need much more improvement if he is to challenge for a fifth US Open title, which would tie him with Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, and Pete Sampras for the most in the Open Era.
Up next for the 22-time Grand Slam champion is American hope Frances Tiafoe, who advanced with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Argentine 14th seed Diego Schwartzman.
"My best match of the tournament, easy," Nadal said. "An important improvement, but I need to keep going.
"I know this is the right moment to make an improvement if I want to keep having chances to keep going on the tournament. Today was an improvement. I need another important improvement for the next day."
Nadal is always a favourite in New York but such was his dominance that even the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd tried to lift Gasquet's spirit as he fell behind 6-0, 3-0.
When Gasquet finally held serve in the 10th game, the crowd gave a mighty roar as the 36-year-old French veteran raised his arms into the air in celebration.
The beating, however, quickly resumed with Nadal sweeping the next five games to take the second set and a 2-0 lead in the third.
At that point Nadal took his foot off the gas and when Gasquet broke the 22-times Grand Slam winner to level the third set at 2-2, it earned him a standing ovation.
It took a few games for Nadal to get back in gear, but the outcome was never in doubt, the Spaniard collecting his seventh break of the match to go up 6-5 then coolly holding serve to clinch a convincing win.
Nadal is joined in the fourth round by fellow Spaniard, and heir apparent, Carlos Alcaraz, who continued his fine start at the tournament with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over American Jenson Brooksby.
The third seed takes on Marin Cilic for a place in the quarter-finals after Croatian 14th seed powered past Britain's Dan Evans 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-5.
British hopes are still alive with Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie following his convincing 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Norwegian Holger Rune. The seventh seed next faces Andrey Rublev, the Russian ninth seed needing five sets for a second time this tournament to beat Canada's Denis Shapovalov in a marathon match 6-4, 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.