It's been quite the season for Ondrej Duda. Not only is the Hertha Berlin string-puller the Bundesliga’s third highest scoring attacking midfielder in 2018/19 behind Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus and Bayer Leverkusen teenager Kai Havertz - he's even won a cheeky wager with teammate Salomon Kalou for his efforts.
With 11 goals, as well as three assists, Duda has transformed from bit-part player - he produced one goal in his previous 20 appearances prior to 2018/19 - to Hertha's chief goal threat. The 24-year-old has outscored veteran striker Vedad Ibisevic (10) and decorated Ivorian forward Kalou (six), who promised the Slovakian No.10 a brand new Rolex should he deliver eight goals across the season.
Shiny new timepiece in the bag, the up-and-coming playmaker shared his thoughts on his breakthrough campaign in the capital with bundesliga.com…
bundesliga.com: You're having a very successful season on a personal level. With eleven goals so far, you are Hertha's top goal scorer. You went 10 games in a row without a goal before finding the back of the net on Matchday 32 against VfB Stuttgart. How big was the relief?
Ondrej Duda: "It's always nice to score again and it's a nice stat for me, but the most important thing was the win. We were winless in seven matches. We won again after a long time and I was happy for the team and for me, too. I think it's been a very good season for me, compared to the last two years or one year ago."
bundesliga.com: In total, you have registered eleven goals and three assists. Are you happy with your season on a personal level?
Duda: "I am, but of course it can be better. I always analyse my performances. I try to do my best every time, but sometimes things are going like you want and sometimes the opposite. Of course, we have still two matches left, and six points to play for. At the end of the day, I'm satisfied."
Watch: Ondrej Duda started his third season of Bundesliga football with a bang!
Duda: "The one against Schalke, I think. It was a special one because it was only the second game of the season and my first goals of the campaign. For me it was special. After these goals, I started scoring a lot and for me it was nice."
bundesliga.com: What is a fonder memory for you, your first Bundesliga goal against Bayern Munich last season or one of your 11 goals this season?
Duda: "One of the eleven goals this season, against Wolfsburg - a free-kick under the wall - especially as it was at the end of the game and rescued a draw for us. But also against Bayern last season because it was my first Bundesliga goal. It was different. Nothing special, but just a classic goal."
bundesliga.com: The season started very well for Hertha and you were on course for European qualification after some big results. Then everything changed after the winter break. How do you explain that?
Duda: "I don’t know what the reason is. It was the same in the last two seasons: the first half goes well, then we have difficulties. There were home games where we should have taken more points: against Dortmund, against Werder Bremen, against Wolfsburg. You can always do better but, in the end, it's not as bad as it perhaps looks."
bundesliga.com: How disappointed are you that the club will only be able to finish 10th or 11th in the table?
Duda: "For sure it is better to finish the season in the top 10 than in 11th. We will do everything to finish in the top 10, that's our goal. I hope we do it. It's also what the club wanted at the start of the season, to be in the top ten, 40 points. We're on 40 points, and we still have two matches. We have to take these six points. If we do, I'm confident we'll be in the top 10."
Duda: "Like any professional. Everyone is ready to finish, everyone wants a holiday - but we are professional. I hope everybody is focussed for the next two matches. It might not be playing for a European place, but it's still the top 10. It's still something to fight for."
bundesliga.com: Do you enjoy playing in the Bundesliga?
Duda: "When I compare to leagues where I was playing before, to Poland, to Slovakia, it is really easy to compare because the Bundesliga is top level, high level. You can’t compare it with Poland or with the Slovakian league. The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world for me, together with the Premier League, with the Spanish league or with the Italian league. It's fun to play here. You have nice stadiums, you have incredible fans who support almost every team and the league is difficult. It's nice to play in, it's fast. The Bundesliga has everything."
bundesliga.com: What has been your best moment in the Bundesliga?
Duda: "It's hard to say. I don’t know, but definitely one of my goals or assists."
bundesliga.com: There are a lot of young players at Hertha. Who is the most talented in your opinion?
Duda: "We have some young players like Jordan [Torunarigha], like Julius Kade, Dennis Jastrzembski. They're all guys with potential, but they have to train hard, they have to learn from older players like Salomon Kalou or whoever, Fabian Lustenberger or Per Skjelbred. They have to learn and we will see."
bundesliga.com: Are you enjoying being at Hertha Berlin and what do you hope to achieve with Hertha in the future? You have a contract with the club until 2021...
Duda: "I like Berlin, it is a nice city, a big city. In the beginning it was a little difficult to adapt, but I've come to love it. I have a lot of friends, I found a girlfriend here. What I wish with Hertha in the next years, I don’t know, we will see. I have a contract until 2021. It will be nice if we can fight for the Europa League, the top six, seven places in the future."