08:30 PM GMT March 26, 2021
The Canadian looked right at home at Hard Rock Stadium, the same venue where he reached the semi-finals in 2019 as an 18-year-old on his tournament debut. That year, Auger-Aliassime won seven straight matches from qualifying before falling to eventual finalist John Isner.
He will get another shot against Isner, the 2018 champion, in the third round. Isner fought past qualifier Mackenzie McDonald 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the last match of the day on Grandstand.
Auger-Aliassime took control of the rallies with his forehand against Herbert, firing 19 of his 24 winners off that wing. The victory improves Auger-Aliassime’s ATP Head2Head record against Herbert to 2-1, after splitting last year’s encounters on the Frenchman’s home turf in Montpellier and Marseille.
"I thought it was a tricky first match, because I have lost to him before," Auger-Aliassime said. "So I guess being ready for his best, being ready for kind of the worst-case scenario really got me prepared mentally, and I think I stayed focused throughout the match. So that was a good thing."
The 20-year-old arrived at the year’s first ATP Masters 1000 event full of confidence after strong results to start the season, including a run to the final at the Great Ocean Road Open and last week's Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC quarter-finals.
Auger-Aliassime took an early lead in both sets and matched the Frenchman’s net-rushing with some of his own, winning five of nine points at the net. But in both sets, he lost the early advantage as Herbert fought back to 4-4. A late break at 5-4 in each set made the difference for the Canadian, who served out the victory to love after an hour and 33 minutes.