Singapore: Asian sporting fortunes reached new heights in 2011 as its growing riches drew a rising number of top events and China's Li Na made history as the region's first tennis Grand Slam winner.

Japan claimed a thrilling victory in January's Asian Cup, India were crowned cricket's one-day champions and in October, New Zealand ended a 24-year jinx to lift the Rugby World Cup in front of an ecstatic home nation.

India's debut Formula One race made it seven Grands Prix in the Asia-Pacific region, prompting the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone to declare Europe was "finished" in the sport.

And Asia's burgeoning golf scene became so crowded - partly due to the advent of mega-rich Chinese exhibition events - that tournaments clashed and were forced to compete for players.

Asia-Pacific tennis players starred this year, with Samantha Stosur downing Serena Williams in a stormy US Open final to become Australia's first female Grand Slam winner since 1980.

Earlier, Li's historic French Open victory had triggered a rapturous response from the Chinese public, a government cash prize and a bronze statue in her home city of Wuhan, and eager anticipation of further success.

But the straight-sets win over defending champion Francesca Schiavone proved a tough act to follow as Li won just one match at Wimbledon and crashed out in the US Open first round.

Japan had got the year off to a flying start as they edged Australia in the Asian Cup final in Doha thanks to a sublime extra-time volley from Tadanari Lee which settled it 1-0.

And the marathon cricket World Cup built to a memorable climax in April -- after starting in February -- when co-hosts India chased down Sri Lanka's 274 in Mumbai, sparking riotous celebrations.

England retained the Ashes with a 3-1 demolition of disbelieving Australia, their first away victory in the historic series in 24 years.

But cricket reeled from newspaper revelations of a spot-fixing scam which led to jail terms in Britain for disgraced Pakistan captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, and their agent Mazhar Majeed.

Asian football was also dragged through the mire when regional chief Mohamed bin Hammam was accused of handing out cash-stuffed envelopes and banned from the sport, after attempting to topple FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

South Korea's K-League was rocked by a wide-ranging match-fixing scandal which was closely linked to two suicides and left dozens of people in the dock.

But China's much-maligned football scene celebrated a coup when Shanghai Shenhua landed the signature of Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka, the Super League's first legitimate star.

In October, India held a trouble-free maiden Formula One race near New Delhi, boosting its image after last year's shambolic and scandalous Commonwealth Games.

Juvic Pagunsan became the Philippines' first winner of golf's Asian order of merit, largely through his efforts in coming second in the rain-hit Singapore Open.

A galaxy of golf stars were again lured to the region by ever-growing purses and hefty appearance fees, with world number two Rory McIlory pocketing $2 million - the sport's richest first prize - for an exhibition win in China.

Tiger Woods showed signs of a long-awaited return to form at the Australian Open in Sydney, before finally breaking his two-year win drought three weeks later in California.

But the congested 'Asian swing' showed signs of reaching saturation point as tournaments competed for players and organisers hit out at China's new "vanity" events which sucked in the game's top talent.

New Zealand were worthy winners of the Rugby World Cup but they were forced to sweat through a tense final before beating France by a just a single point.

Australia finished third despite heading into the tournament as the form team, partly on the back of the Queensland Reds' stylish Super 15 final win over the Canterbury Crusaders.

But Indonesia's Southeast Asian Games were beset by corruption, poor organisation and shoddy infrastructure, and ended in tragedy when two people were killed in a stadium crush during the football final in Jakarta.

(Agencies)