SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
May 06, 1991
After myriad personal setbacks, a changed Bjorn Borg made a sad return to tennis
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 06, 1991


After myriad personal setbacks, a changed Bjorn Borg made a sad return to tennis

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

The divorce was amicable. "I didn't ask for much," she says. "Only that I live comfortably for the rest of my life."

Borg never married Bjorling. ("They were like two bison in a clinch, equally strong and stiff-necked," says a mutual friend from Stockholm.) About two years after Bjorling bore him a son, Robin, in 1985, the couple split and agreed to share custody of the child. In the summer of 1988, after Borg had taken up with another woman, Italian rock star Loredana Berte, Bjorling had second thoughts about the agreement.

On A Current Affair she told Maury Povich that, yes, there would be a custody battle and that it would make Borg "very, very angry." In Z, a satirical Swedish magazine, she accused him of having been a cocaine user during their relationship. Borg sued Z for defamation, won and collected $12,500. Borg has agreed to provide Bjorling with a spacious apartment in Stockholm plus $1,300 monthly in living expenses. Bjorling, a regular in the city's glitziest night spots, has taken a job as a nurse's attendant, and there has been speculation in the Swedish press that she has done so in part to counter criticism that she is what Dagens Nyheter called a "kept woman."

Berte, meanwhile, knows all about public ridicule. A questionable 40, she was born in depressed Calabria, the center of Italy's kidnapping industry. Whether Berte cradle-snatched Borg is moot, inasmuch as he was smitten the first moment he saw the smoldering songbird with the wild-in-the-streets act on TV. "Who in dat?" world is dat?" Borg asked his buddy Panatta, who was quite knowledgeable in such matters.

In the early 1970s Berte was in the Italian cast of Hair. Later she posed nude for a magazine and toured with the colorful and at times outlandish rock singer Renato Zero. Donning jeans with the bottom cut out and leather outfits accessorized with whips and chains—eat your heart out, Madonna—Berte personified her trademark ditty, Non Sono una Signora. Translation: I'm not a lady. Nobody was about to contradict her. Two months ago in San Remo, unable to hit a note during a performance, she silenced the orchestra and then chastised it, shouting in Italian, "Get another job."

From being caustic and rude—she has also ripped her sister, singer Mia Martini, and her mother in the press—Berte became a gooey-eyed romantic after meeting Borg on the Spanish isle of Ibiza and then marrying him in September 1989.

The marriage silenced doubts about the relationship. Those doubts had peaked after Borg was rushed to a hospital from their apartment in Milan on Feb. 7, 1989, to have his stomach pumped free of sleeping pills. He said it was a case of food poisoning; the Italian press speculated about drugs. Another scenario had the couple engaged in a violent argument after which Borg, depressed about Bjorling's keeping him from seeing his son, attempted suicide.

Last week, with her husband having lost his comeback match in Monte Carlo in his seventh straight week away from home, it was Berte who was rushed to a hospital. Despondent over Borg's absence and rumors that he was philandering—upon hearing that Borg had been photographed with a female journalist, she telephoned Vincenzo Martucci, of the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, in Monte Carlo and reportedly screamed, "I'll kill him if there's another woman"—Berte reportedly took an overdose of a barbiturate. She, too, had to have her stomach pumped.

Berte had written a couple of suicide notes, one of which, according to Milan police, said: "I, Loredana Berte Borg, commend my soul to God and his infinite mercy and goodness. God has said he would forgive sinners." The next day, Borg left his parents' villa in Cap Ferrat, where he was staying during the tournament, to fly home to Milan.

Berte's suicide attempt came a month after the completion of a sale at public auction—to satisfy creditors—of Borg's Stockholm apartment, speedboat and car, along with his beloved estate, the archipelago paradise Vikingshill, just outside Stockholm. This does not mean Borg is broke—millions are in trust funds—just that he is sweeping the dust of Sweden off his feet, probably for good. In 1985 he moved back to Monte Carlo, where last week he refused to acknowledge the Swedish press in his native language, and his only show of emotion in his one press conference came when he was asked about his country. "For six years they [the Swedish media] tried to destroy me," he said. "I am happy to be out of Sweden."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5
Related Topics
Loredana Berte Borg 1 0 0
Bjorn Borg 112 0 5
Tennis 2333 0 74
Loredana Berte 1 0 0
Lars Skarke 1 0 0