Originally Posted by Mustard
It moved around up to 1971, but then it settled down. The event has been in Melbourne since 1972, but the worst period of the Australian Open attendance slump was 1976-1982. I think moving it away from the Christmas period in 1982 was the start, and then moving to the new venue, Flinders/Melbourne Park, in 1988, was even bigger. Then there's the prize money difference as well.
The AO was moved to January permanently in 1987. The event was not held in 1986, to allow for the change.
When I said the wheels were put in motion to make it a big event, I didn't mean straight away. Rome was wasn't built in a day and the status of the AO was not going to be elevated in a day either. I think the AO first began to be taken seriously in 1983 when Wilander and Lendl turned up. Then it wasn't too much longer that you had Becker and Edberg here too, and the move to Flinders Park, now known as Melbourne Park pretty much consolidated the AO's position as a worthy GS. The final nail in the coffin of the point of view that the AO was not a grand slam taken seriously was in 1995 when Agassi came over for the event. Given Agassi's reputation for being rebellious, the fact he came all this way to play the event was a massive boost for the image of the event. The fact he played Sampras in the final that year, even moreso.
The removal of any doubt whatsoever in my mind about the AO's importance was when Federer cried. And I don't mean when he lost to Nadal. I mean when he beat Baghdatis. At that stage he was seemingly unbeatable, had already won many slams and after an early fright, beat Baghdatis pretty comfortably in the end. Yet there he was getting emotional during his speech.
So by the time the 2012 final rolled around, it did not surprise me in the slightest that Djok and Nadal slugged it out for 6 hours. If you're going to come all this way down under, you may as well make it count while you're here.