#Wimbledon – When a 13-year old played at Wimbledon

Mita Klima spent her final years working at the Wannsee Golf Club

Mita Kribben (aka Mita Klima) was born in Austria, while the country was still a coalition under the Hungarian-Austrian empire. The exact year of birth is uncertain and according to a few sources, a couple of them point to the years between 1892-1894. Apart from this conundrum, there is no doubt that she participated in the 1907 Wimbledon ladies singles championships along with her elder sister Willy Klima.

Prior to the creation of the ATP ranking system in 1973, the tennis world relied on the opinions of the famous British sports journalist and historian, Lance Tingay. His annual World Rankings formed the reference point in identifying the top ten players of the world. In one of his books, ‘The Guinness Book of Tennis Facts and Feats’ published in 1983, he has a few words about the Klima sisters. According to his research, Mita Klima was 13 years of age when she took part in the 1907 Wimbledon championships. He also mentioned Willy, Mita’s elder sister to be older by a year.

Going by this reference, Mita Klima has held the record till date to be the youngest ever player to take part in the singles championships at Wimbledon.

Mita Klima played her first round match against Madeline O’Neill and she lost in straight sets 1-6, 2-6. There is nothing more to add to her Grand Slam tally. Mita Klima’s record has stood the test of time and only one player came close to emulating her record, Jennifer Capriati.

The 1992 Olympic gold medalist, Capriati was three months past 14 years when she made her first Wimbledon appearance in 1990. Unlike Mita, she reached the fourth round of the championships, continuing her splendid form she displayed at the 1990 French Open (semi-finalist).

The lack of evidence of the life of Mita Klima apart from Lance Tingay’s reference makes a good case for a debate on Mita’s exact age at the time of her Wimbledon appearance. Apart from appearing in occasional trivia columns during Wimbledon, there isn’t much that’s documented on the tennis life of Mita Klima.

Eight years after her Wimbledon appearance, she married a German tennis player Otto Curt Kribben, who also owned a factory. Her life post marriage is not well documented up until 1930’s. She worked  as the club secretary at the Golf and Land club in Wannsee district, Berlin. Even when Berlin and entire Germany was at war, the Golf club entertained few celebrity golfers as this remained one of the few golf courses that was open during the second of the great wars.

As the war intensified, little by little, the golf course started to look more like a military playground. Two air-strikes on the place caused no damage. It is documented that a golf match took place on April 20, 1945  at Wannsee. Towards the end of World War II, the Red Army had their trenches placed and their artillery grenades destroyed building and the cellars underneath the towers of the clubhouse.

Amidst this carnage, Mita Kribben lost her life.

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