When Sada Nahimana first left her hometown as a young girl to visit her grandmother, she knew immediately that she wanted to see more.

The trip was short — she left the capital city, Bujumbura, but stayed inside Burundi, a densely populated sub-Saharan African country of about 10 million people — but it was enough to instill a love of travel.

“I liked it, just to go from my house to another place,” Nahimana, 16, said. “I love seeing new places, and the best places.”

It is tennis that has taken her to so many new places, including New York for the United States Junior Open this year. In a city full of potential new experiences, what stuck out to Nahimana was the shade.

“You don’t get to see the sun a lot,” she said. “Every day, we have sun in Africa, and it’s very hot. So here, when you’re walking in the streets, you don’t really see the sun because the buildings cover it.”

Coming from a country with such little tennis tradition, Nahimana got used to traveling abroad to find competition from an early age. The junior Open is the third tournament for Nahimana on this trip to North America, following stops in Quebec and Maryland.

She won two matches to qualify for the main draw of the junior Open last week, but her run came to an end with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 defeat on Monday against second-seeded Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the first round of the main draw.

“In first set, I was giving everything and I thought I would do good,” Nahimana said. “I was confident. But in the second, I tried everything, but I’d just lost it.”

For Nahimana, there were no regrets.

“I’m proud of myself,” said Nahimana, who also competed in the Wimbledon junior event. “It’s my second Grand Slam, and I just qualified in this one and I played against a great player. I had nothing to lose.”

Nahimana received support for her journey to North America this fall from the International Tennis Federation’s Grand Slam Development Fund team, which aims to provide more opportunities for tennis players around the world. The team’s coach, Roberta Burzagli, said she thought Nahimana had stumbled mentally after the first set, when her opponent took a break.

“I think Sada couldn’t even believe how she’s playing here,” Burzagli said. “And then when the other girl went to the toilet, it gave Sada time to think about it, and then she couldn’t handle the situation. It was very mental, what happened.”

Nahimana has played well against the best in the world. She beat Carson Branstine of Canada, the fifth-ranked junior in the world, earlier this year in Belgium, and Burzagli believes Nahimana can continue to develop, as long as she continues to find high-level competition outside Africa.

Nahimana, a four-time African junior champion, agreed that top players cannot develop against the level of tennis on the continent.

“Tennis in Africa is very low,” she said. “Comparing to Europe and here in the U.S., you can’t compare. Tennis is not improving, it’s still the same.

“Where I live, it’s very far from Europe, and if you travel to the north of Africa, the level is a little better, but it’s not good compared to Europe and America. It’s bad. But I’m happy I’m playing a Grand Slam, representing Africa.”

Nahimana now trains and studies at the I.T.F.’s African development center in Casablanca, Morocco, which has more resources than Burundi. She began playing tennis at 8, but she already had to travel internationally to find competition as a 9-year-old.

“Burundi is a very poor country, and very small, so there is not much tennis,” Nahimana said.

Her family has done its part to build tennis in Burundi. Her father is a tennis coach at the country’s lone tennis club, which is a 15-minute walk from her house. Her brother, Hassan Ndayishimiye, was the first Burundian player to compete in junior Grand Slams in 2011. He recently graduated from Troy University in Alabama, and he traveled to New York to watch his sister’s qualifying matches.

Nahimana will also represent Burundi at the 16-nation Junior Fed Cup final in Budapest this month. After her teammates secured loans for travel and visas to the African qualifying tournament from the host Tunisian federation, Nahimana led Burundi to victory, an achievement that the president of the country’s tennis federation did not believe when first told on the phone.

“The president was like, ‘Is it true? Stop lying to me!’” Nahimana said, laughing.

Though she represents her country with pride, Nahimana does not try to hide its struggles when other players ask her about life in Burundi.

“They do ask, and I tell them at the moment that Burundi is very bad — there is a war there,” she said. “It’s not safe, but at the moment, it’s good. But the last two years, it was very bad.”

On the same day as Nahimana’s match, Burundi’s leaders were accused of crimes against humanity by a panel set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The investigators said the offenses reached “the highest level of the state.”

Traveling the world can provide Nahimana a sense of peace, however — as can any tennis court.

“When I’m on court, I’m natural, I’m not shy,” she said. “I’m myself when I play tennis. Tennis is just my life.”