An Iceborg's Meltdown
The next day, police answered an urgent call at Borg's Milan apartment and found 40-year-old Italian pop singer Loredana Bertè, Borg's wife of two years, unconscious on the floor. Nearby, they discovered two empty bottles of a sedative and a handwritten note: "I, Loredana Bertè Borg, commend my soul to God and to his infinite mercy and goodness. Goodbye cruel world, I hate you."
Rushed to a hospital, Berté had her stomach pumped, and doctors said she would fully recover. As soon as the suicide attempt became known, rumors about her motives began flying faster than an overhead smash. First reports cited the singer's despondency over a recent magazine photo showing Borg with a woman journalist. Speculation about marital troubles gathered momentum when Borg, just a three-hour drive away in Monte Carlo, failed to appear at his stricken wife's bedside until 30 hours after learning of her suicide try.
Other Borg watchers pointed to Ron Thatcher, Borg's 79-year-old Welsh trainer, as a possible source of Bertè's woes. Thatcher, who also goes by the Japanese name Tia Honsai, is a self-described professor of martial arts who has served as a mind-and-body fitness guru to James Coburn and Richard Burton. Borg had sought Thatcher's help in conditioning, and Thatcher is said to have put the Swede on a strict regimen of old-world Japanese exercise, meditation and celibacy.
Two days before the Monte Carlo match, Bertè had reportedly telephoned Italian journalists, complaining that her husband had become too devoted to the trainer. Thatcher, not surprisingly, scoffs at the report. "She's a nut case," he says of Bertè, denying he has had any influence on her marriage to Borg. "That's a load of rubbish," he snaps. "I don't even know her."
Borg had left model Jannike Björling, the mother of his son, Robin, now 5, to many Bertè. The latter has never shied from ruffling feathers. Known for her nose-thumbing flamboyance, Berte has appeared onstage in everything from see-through blouses to white wedding gowns, and one year shocked the audience at Italy's popular San Remo song festival by showing up with padding that made her look pregnant.
Bertè was released from the hospital four days after her overdose. But Borg is left with the problems that may have prompted his comeback in the first place. His personal wealth, once estimated at $75 million, is said to have been whittled away by bad investments, and a former business associate, Lars Skarke, claims Borg cheated him and is suing for $12 million. Some speculated that Borg's own emergency hospitalization in February 1989 was a suicide attempt, although he blamed food poisoning and a toxic reaction to prescription drugs.
Now, with marital complications added to his financial problems, Borg may have more trouble than ever bouncing back on the court. "In a certain sense, tennis is simpler than life," he said in an interview last year. No one knows that better now than Björn Borg himself.
CHARLES E. COHEN, with bureau reports