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Borg Took Barbiturates, Friend Says; Press Reports He Tried Suicide

February 7, 1989

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg swallowed barbiturates to ease an upset stomach, a friend said Tuesday, but a news agency reported the retired Swedish tennis player apparently had attempted suicide.

Borg, 32, was hospitalized at Milan Polyclinic for three hours Tuesday before he returned with his Italian fiancee, rock singer Loredana Berte, to her apartment.

The ANSA news agency said initial police investigations indicated Borg had tried to commit suicide but that it could not get official confirmation of its report.

Borg’s personal adviser said he had taken barbiturates after becoming nauseous, and another friend said Borg had been stricken by food poisoning.

″I’m fine, it’s all over,″ Borg told reporters outside the apartment.

″Go away all of you,″ snapped Ms. Berte, 41, before slamming the door.

During the drive from the hospital, a photographer gave chase on foot and bumped into the couple’s taxi, prompting the driver to get out and slap him.

Tuesday night, at around 10:30 p.m., Borg and Ms. Berte left the apartment in a taxi with a police escort driving at high speed, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. It was not immediately known where they were headed.

Hospital officials confirmed that Borg had been treated, but refused to give any details.

ANSA quoted unidentified hospital sources as saying Borg apparently had swallowed about 10 pills.

Mara Savastano, a friend of the couple, said the singer told her that Borg had suffered from food poisoning.

Ingmar Alverdal, Borg’s personal adviser, told the Swedish national news agency TT that Borg took barbiturates to fall asleep after he became sickened while dining at a restaurant Monday.

″But his nausea got worse and in the morning, on doctors’ advice, (he) went to hospital,″ Alverdal said. He added that he made the statement at Borg’s request.

Borg retired from tournament play in 1983 at the age of 27. He now runs a fashion business and acts as a tourism ambassador for Sweden.

Borg and Ms. Berte recently announced they would be married Feb. 26 in Milan. According to recent Italian newspaper reports, however, the date was put off because Ms. Berte’s divorce from an industrialist, Roberto Berger, has not yet come through.

Borg previously was married to Romanian-born tennis player Mariana Simonescu. After divorcing in 1983, Borg began seeing 17-year-old Swedish beauty queen Jannike Bjorling. They never married but have a son, Robin, 3.

Borg and Ms. Berte, a throaty-voiced singer whose recent hits include ″American Angel,″ have been together since last summer. They recently were photographed together on a trip to China.

In an interview published Monday in the Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet, Ms. Bjorling said Borg had trouble with women.

″No woman can fulfill Bjorn’s fantasies,″ she was quoted as saying. ″Now we’ll see if Loredana can do it. ... Bjorn is a twin. A twin has two sides - like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s two persons.″

The article said Borg was considering demanding custody of his son if he moved abroad with Ms. Berte.

Borg was reported to have amassed $75 million in winnings and endorsements during his tennis career. He lived for 11 years in Monte Carlo to avoid Swedish taxes, among the world’s highest, but returned to Sweden in 1985.

Borg beat Ilie Nastase in the Wimbledon final in 1976 to become the first Scandanavian to win there. The victory was his first of five on the grass courts of the tennis classic.

He won the French Open six times, in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

Borg never won, or made the finals, in the Australian Open. He also never won the U.S. Open, losing four times in the finals.

He was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

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