The French Open men's final brings together two players who began the tournament as longshots, one of whom worried that he would embarrass himself.

Sixth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia plays 15th-seeded Michael Stich of Germany for the title in the Grand Slam event.Since the tournament began, Stich defeated defending champion Thomas Muster and Kafelnikov whipped top-seeded Pete Sampras, but today's finalists had the odds stacked against them from the start.

Stich had surgery in March on his left ankle after reinjuring his foot minutes before a match in a tournament in Milan. He did not return until the Italian Open in May, losing in the second round. His coach, Sven Groeneveld, was not sure Stich he would be able to compete in the French Open.

"We sat down, I said `I don't know if I should go to France and look like an idiot playing on the clay,' " Stich said.

Groeneveld convinced him to try to play one or two matches and use it as practice to get ready for Wimbledon which he won in 1991.

Now Stich is in his seventh clay court match and shooting for his second Grand Slam title.

"This is something I never would have believed could or would happened," Stich said. "But it happened."

Kafelnikov, 22, is in his first Grand Slam final. He had been tabbed as a potential champion since taking Sampras to five sets in the second round at the 1994 Australian Open as a 19-year-old and leading Russia to the Davis Cup final twice.

But he lost in the Davis Cup final deciding match last December to Sampras and lost in this year's Australian Open to Boris Becker, marking the second year in a row he lost to the future champion.

Kafelnikov was always stopped just before breaking through. Now he has the chance against Stich.

Kafelnikov leads 6-3 in career matches against Stich but lost both best-of-five matches, once in the U.S. Open and the other in a Davis Cup match.

Their season records are also a contrast. Stich is just 14-2 due to his injuries while Kafelnikov is 41-11, nearly the most victories on the circuit since he enters many tournaments and plays doubles as well. He won the doubles final on Saturday with Daniel Vacek.

Stich is the first German man to reach the French Open final since 1937, when Henner Henkel won the title. Kafelnikov is the first male player from Russia or the former Soviet Union to make the French final.