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Rafael Nadal with Meliá Hotels International CEO, Gabriel Escarrer.

Tennis champion Rafael Nadal is preparing to defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne next week but also has one eye on a life in hospitality after tennis.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has put his name behind a new hotel brand which will debut in Spain, with ambitious plans to expand across Europe and into Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

Dubbed ‘ZEL Hotels and Resorts’, the first ZEL branded urban resort will open its doors this year in the Spanish coastal town of Mallorca, with early plans hinting at a target of 20 resorts in key leisure destinations, with Madrid, Paris and London in the pipeline.

“As a Spaniard, a Mallorcan and a global traveller, the launch of this hotel brand is a project that I have had in my mind for a long time,” Nadal said.

“ZEL will be synonymous with feeling good and enjoying the Mediterranean lifestyle. I was really attracted to this new concept with Meliá from the start and I am confident that ZEL will be a huge success and will be enjoyed by every type of traveller.”

Nadal is preparing to defend his 2022 Australian Open crown in Melbourne this month.

Assisting Nadal in operating the brand will be Melia Hotels International, which aims to leverage the tennis superstar’s global identity to create a distinctly Mediterranean resort experience wherever it sets up in the world.

Hallmarks behind the ZEL brand will centre on nurturing an outdoor lifestyle with bright spaces connected to nature, the sea and sky. Resorts will feature programs of health and wellness activities designed for both individuals and groups, backed by restaurant menus loaded with healthy options.

Resorts will be built around a central courtyard which will reflect the brand’s Mediterranean roots. Rooms, restaurants and public spaces such as terraces and rooftop social clubs will be accessible from here.

Courtyards will also host local market stalls allowing guests to browse the wares of local artists and crafters, emblematic of the Mediterranean resort experience.